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Afghanistan

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Implementation and awareness of a government decree regarding violence against women remained a serious problem under the pre-August 15 government. The decree criminalizes 22 acts of violence against women, including rape, battery or beating, forced marriage, humiliation, intimidation, and deprivation of inheritance. The law criminalizes rape against both women and men. The law provides for a minimum sentence of five to 16 years’ imprisonment for conviction of rape, or up to 20 years if one or more aggravating circumstances are present. If the act results in the death of the victim, the law provides for a death sentence for the perpetrator. The law criminalizes statutory rape and prohibits the prosecution of rape victims for zina. The law provides for imprisonment of up to seven years for conviction of “aggression to the chastity or honor of a female [that] does not lead to penetration to anus or vagina.” Under the law, rape does not include spousal rape. Pre-August 15 government authorities did not always enforce these laws, although the government was implementing limited aspects of the decree, including through dedicated prosecution units. Women and girls with disabilities were at increased risk for sexual abuse.

Prosecutors and judges in rural areas were frequently unaware of the decree or received pressure to release defendants due to familial loyalties, threat of harm, or bribes, or because some religious leaders declared the law “un-Islamic.” Female survivors faced stringent or violent societal reprisal, ranging from imprisonment to extrajudicial killing.

The law criminalizes forced gynecological exams, which acted as “virginity tests,” except when conducted pursuant to a court order or with the consent of the subject. Awareness and enforcement of the restrictions on forced gynecological exams remained limited. There were reports police, prosecutors, and judges continued to order the exams in cases of “moral crimes” such as zina. Pre-August 15 government doctors, frequently men, conducted these exams, often without consent. Women who sought assistance in cases of rape were often subjected to the exams.

The law for the pre-August 15 government criminalized assault, and courts convicted domestic abusers under this provision, as well as under the “injury and disability” and beating provisions in the relevant decree. According to NGO reports, millions of women continued to suffer abuse at the hands of their husbands, fathers, brothers, in-laws, and other individuals. The AIHRC announced that of 3,477 cases of violence against women recorded with its organization in the first 10 months of 2020, 95.8 percent of cases involved a family-member perpetrator and that the home environment was the most dangerous place for women in the country. State institutions, including police and judicial systems, failed to adequately address such abuse. Lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced women to spend more time at home, reportedly resulting in increased incidence of domestic violence as well as additional stress on already limited victim-support systems. One such incident included a man from Paktika Province who cut off his wife’s nose with a kitchen knife in May. The woman, who regularly faced physical abuse by her husband, was reportedly seeking to leave the abusive relationship when her husband attacked her.

Due to cultural normalization and a view of domestic violence as a “family matter,” domestic violence often remained unreported. The justice system’s response to domestic violence was insufficient, in part due to underreporting, a preference for mediation, sympathy toward perpetrators, corruption, and family or tribal pressure. According to an HRW report published in August, there were dedicated prosecution units in all 34 provinces as of March and specialized courts – at least in name – with female judges in 15 provinces, and dedicated court divisions expanded to operate at the primary and appellate levels in all 34 provinces.

Space at the 28 women’s protection centers across the country was sometimes insufficient, particularly in major urban centers, and shelters remained concentrated in the western, northern, and central regions of the country, under the pre-August 15 administration. Some women did not seek legal assistance for domestic or sexual abuse because they did not know their rights or because they feared prosecution or being sent back to their family or to the perpetrator. Cultural stigmatization of women who spent even one night outside the home also prevented women from seeking services that may bring “shame” to herself or her family.

At times, women in need of protection ended up in prison, either because their community lacked a protection center or because “running away” was interpreted as a moral crime. Adultery, fornication, and kidnapping are criminal offenses. Running away from home is not a crime under the law, and both the Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s Office issued directives to this effect, but some local authorities continued to detain women and girls for running away from home or “attempted zina.” The pre-August 15 government’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs, as well as nongovernmental entities, sometimes arranged marriages for women who could not return to their families (see also section 6, Children, Child, Early, and Forced Marriage).

On September 19, Taliban gunmen entered a women’s shelter in Kabul by force, interrogated staff and residents for several hours and forced the head of the shelter to sign a letter promising not to allow the residents to leave without Taliban permission. The Taliban told the shelter operator they would return married shelter residents to their abusers and marry the single residents to Taliban soldiers.

Additionally, sources in September reported the Taliban were conducting “audits” of women’s shelters and women’s rights organizations, including those that provided protection services. These audits were enforced with intimidation through the brandishing of weapons and threats of violence. Equipment, including computers, paper files, and other documentation, was confiscated, and staff reported being aggressively questioned regarding their activities and possible association with the United States. Essential service providers either reduced or ceased their services altogether, citing fear of putting battered women, an already vulnerable demographic, at greater risk of violence and harm.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Under the 2004 constitution, the law criminalizes forced, underage, and baad marriages (the practice of settling disputes in which the culprit’s family trades a girl to the victim’s family) and interference with a woman’s right to choose her spouse. NGOs reported instances of baad were still practiced, often in rural areas. The practice of exchanging brides between families was not criminalized and remained widespread. “Honor killings” continued throughout the year.

Sexual Harassment: The law under the pre-August 15 government criminalized all forms of harassment of women and children, including physical, verbal, psychological, and sexual harassment. By law all government ministries are required to establish a committee to review internal harassment complaints and support appropriate resolution of these claims. Implementation and enforcement of the law under the pre-August 15 government remained limited and ineffective. Media reported that the number of women reporting sexual harassment increased compared with prior years, although some speculated this could be an increased willingness to report cases rather than an increase in the incidence of harassment. Women who walked outside alone or who worked outside the home often experienced harassment, including groping, catcalling, and being followed. Women with public roles occasionally received threats directed at them or their families.

Prior to the August 15 Taliban takeover, businesswomen faced a myriad of challenges from the “traditional” nature of society and its norms regarding acceptable behavior by women. When it was necessary for a businesswoman to approach the government for some form, permit, or authorization, it was common for a male functionary to ask for sexual favors or money in exchange for the authorization.

After the Taliban takeover, most women-led businesses suspended operations due to the ongoing liquidity crisis and fear of violating Taliban edicts against women in the marketplace.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Under the pre-August 15 government, married couples had the legal right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. The Family Law (2019), which was in effect by promulgation of a presidential proclamation (although parliament never passed it), outlines individuals’ rights to reproductive health. There were no recent, reliable data regarding reproductive rights. According to the 2015 Afghanistan Demographic and Health Survey, only 5 percent of women made independent decisions concerning their own health care, while 44 percent reported that their husbands made the decisions for them.

According to UNICEF, more than 50 percent of girls in the country started their period without knowing what to expect or understanding why it was happening, and 30 percent of female students in the country were absent during menstruation because schools did not have adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities.

Having a child outside of wedlock is a crime according to the pre-August 15 government’s penal code and is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment for both men and women. Mothers faced severe social stigma for having a child out of wedlock, even when the pregnancy was a result of rape. Abortion or ending a pregnancy was classified as a crime under the law and was punishable by three months’ to one year’s imprisonment.

Women must obtain their husband’s consent to use contraception under the law. Barriers impacting reproductive health care or obstetrical care included many men preventing their wives from receiving care from male doctors or from having a male doctor in attendance at the birth of a child. Sources in October reported continued availability of contraceptives after the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Persons with disabilities faced increased barriers to reproductive health resources as a result of decreased access to transportation, education, and social support. LGBTQI+ persons, already disadvantaged prior to August 15, faced further barriers to accessing reproductive health resources after the Taliban takeover. The already fragile community, which provided some resources to its members, largely disintegrated as members either fled the country or went into deep hiding. Widespread discrimination and abuse prevented most members from seeking reproductive or sexual-health assistance from all but the most trusted confidants.

Families and individuals in cities generally had better access to information than did those living in rural areas. According to the United Nations, the rate of contraceptive use among married women was 35 percent for those living in urban areas compared with 19 percent in rural areas. According to the pre-August 15 government’s Ministry of Public Health, while there was wide variance, most clinics offered some type of modern family planning method.

The World Health Organization reported that the country had 638 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017 (the last year of reported data). A survey conducted by the Central Statistics Organization in the provinces of Bamyan, Daikundi, Ghor, Kabul, Kapisa, and Parwan concluded that many factors contributed to the high maternal death rate, including early pregnancy, narrowly spaced births, and high fertility. Some societal norms, such as a tradition of home births and the requirement for some women to be accompanied by a male relative to leave their homes, led to negative reproductive health outcomes, including inadequate prenatal, postpartum, and emergency obstetric care. Access to maternal health care services was constrained by the limited number of female health practitioners, including an insufficient number of skilled birth attendants. Additionally, the conflict environment and other security concerns limited women’s safe access to health services of any kind.

Since their takeover, the Taliban permitted women to continue their roles as health practitioners, but many women were afraid to return to work due to safety and security concerns related to the Taliban’s stated policies restricting women in the workplace. After August 15, the ever-smaller number of qualified female health practitioners steeply increased the risk of poor health outcomes for women.

Discrimination: Prior to the Taliban’s takeover, women who reported cases of abuse or who sought legal redress for other matters reported they experienced discrimination within the justice system. Some observers, including female judges, asserted that discrimination was a result of faulty implementation of law. Limited access to money and other resources to pay fines (or bribes) and the social requirement for women to have a male guardian affected women’s access to and participation in the justice system. Women do not have equal legal rights, compared to men, to inherit assets as a surviving spouse, and daughters do not have equal rights, compared to sons, to inherit assets from their parents. By law women may not unilaterally divorce their husbands but must obtain their husband’s consent to the divorce, although men may unilaterally divorce their wives. Many women petitioned instead for legal separation. According to the family court in Kabul, during the year women petitioned for legal separation twice as frequently as in the previous year.

Prosecutors and judges in some provinces continued to be reluctant to use the decree related to domestic violence, and judges sometimes replaced those charges with others based on other legal provisions.

The law provides for equal work without discrimination, but there are no provisions for equal pay for equal work. The law criminalizes interference with a woman’s right to work. Women faced discrimination in access to employment and terms of occupation.

After August 15, the Taliban prohibited most female government employees from working, although the Taliban claimed they continued to pay their salaries. Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI) executives sought meetings with the Taliban-controlled Ministry of Economy after the takeover to get clarity on whether the Taliban would allow the estimated 57,000 women-led private businesses in the country to remain open. The AWCCI stated they failed to get a formal meeting with high-level Taliban decisionmakers but were assured informally that women would be allowed to work “if that work conformed with Islamic law.”

Prior to August 15, in the Taliban-controlled areas of the country many women and girls could not decide whom they would marry or at what age, or object to beatings by their husbands. In Jowzjan’s Darzab district, a Taliban commander raped and killed a 16-year-old girl when the family refused to allow her to marry a Taliban fighter.

On April 28, the Taliban published an article, “Feminism as a Colonial Tool,” on its website, accusing the West of using feminism to justify its “invasion, subjugation and bullying of Muslims.” The article asserted the “man-made” concept of women’s rights has “destructive effects on human society” and that women’s rights must be defined by Islam.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The “law” criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and provides for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Authorities and police did not enforce the “law” effectively. No “laws” specifically address domestic violence. The “law” prohibits domestic violence under various assault and violence or battery clauses, with a maximum sentence of four years imprisonment.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a major problem. The Nicosia Turkish Municipality operated a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and there were local NGOs that supported rape and domestic violence victims. Turkish Cypriot authorities also reported establishing gender focal points at relevant “ministries” to respond to complaints of violence against women.

In March there were multiple reports of violence against women. One man was arrested in north Nicosia for beating his wife with a stick, another man was arrested for breaking a woman’s finger after a dispute concerning a divorce case at the “court” in Famagusta, and three persons (including a relative) were arrested for repeatedly raping a 17-year-old girl. The girl was seven-and-a-half months pregnant.

According to a survey of local women conducted by the Nicosia Turkish Municipality’s Side by Side Against Violence Project in February 2020, 60 percent of women were subjected to psychological violence, and 40 percent of women were subjected to physical violence. Survey results also showed that one out of every four women had been exposed to sexual violence and one out of every four women had been exposed to economic violence – defined by the project as the manipulation of economic resources or money as a means of sanction, intimidation, or control over women. Two out of every 10 women had been threatened with physical violence.

Nicosia district police in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots operated the specialized Combating Violence against Women Unit to respond to complaints of domestic violence, including calls to a dedicated hotline.

According to the Combatting Violence against Women Unit, 871 women filed complaints to the unit’s hotline seeking help between January-October. In 2020 a total of 1,063 women called the hotline and filed complaints or sought help.

In October the Coordination Center for Combating Domestic Violence, a joint effort of the “government,” the Nicosia Turkish Municipality Shelter House, police, and the SOS Children’s orphanage held a special training session on domestic violence for 100 police officers from the Combating Violence against Women Unit.

In November, Meral Akinci, Chair of the Association for Women who Support Living (KAYAD) reported that according to KAYAD’s research, one in every five women surveyed suffered from domestic violence. Akinci added that the survey indicated one in five women suffered from economic abuse in the form of spouses either seizing their salary or applying for a bank loan in their name without their consent.

Sexual Harassment: The “criminal code” prohibits sexual harassment and considers it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months imprisonment, an unspecified fine, or both. According to NGOs, sexual harassment went largely unreported. The NGO Voice of International Students in Cyprus (VOIS) reported widespread sexual harassment of female international students and noted that police routinely dismissed complaints of sexual harassment from international students. The organization reported in March that an international student was raped by her landlord’s friend. The perpetrator allegedly tried to bribe the victim to keep her from reporting the incident to police. Although the victim sought help from local NGOs, as of year’s end, police had not opened an investigation.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of “government” authorities.

Authorities did not provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. No publicly funded services were available to survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was not available as part of clinical management of rape.

Some doctors in the private and public sectors required women to have their husband’s consent to proceed with sterilization, although the law does not require such consent.

According to KAYAD, women living in northern Cyprus did not have free access to contraception, one out of every four women was under pressure from their spouse not to use contraception, and abortion services were not provided at public hospitals upon request.

Discrimination: The “law” provides the same “legal” status and rights for women and men, but authorities did not enforce the “law” effectively. Women experienced discrimination in such areas as employment, credit, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. For example, female teachers were reportedly instructed to schedule their pregnancies in order to deliver during summer break. Some female teachers working at private schools were dismissed from their duties for being pregnant during or at the beginning of the school year.

Armenia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a criminal offense, and conviction carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years; general rape statutes apply to the prosecution of spousal rape. Domestic violence was prosecuted under general statutes dealing with violence and carried various sentences depending on the charge (murder, battery, light battery, rape, etc.). Overall, law enforcement bodies did not effectively investigate or prosecute allegations of domestic violence. Although police responded to domestic violence cases, few were successfully prosecuted. Domestic violence against women was widespread. For example on August 11, a 33-year-old Yerevan resident reportedly went to his former wife’s residence and killed her with a knife. According to media reports, he then turned himself in at the Shengavit Police Department and confessed to the crime. He was arrested on suspicion of murder. According to some officials, the absence of a definition of domestic violence in the criminal code hampered their ability to fight it.

In March 2020 the Ministry of Justice launched a two-year campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence and encourage the public to call police to report signs of domestic violence. The campaign included public service announcements, two social experiments (to see if individuals would react to signs of domestic violence and call for help), posters, and a social media campaign that reached more than 4.2 million viewers.

Narrow definitions in the law against family violence prevented abuse survivors who were not married or in common-law relationships with their partners from receiving protection and support under the law. The new criminal code adopted on May 5 and scheduled to enter into force in July 2022 would introduce the concept of violence by an intimate partner but does not define domestic violence. According to the NGO Coalition to Stop Violence against Women, while the law addresses prevention of domestic violence and protection of victims, there are no provisions on the punishment of abusers. During the year the government continued to support two domestic violence survivor support centers, available to women from throughout the country.

According to the Coalition to Stop Violence against Women, the law’s failure to include lack of consent in definitions of sexual violence crimes left many coerced sexual acts unpunished. There were reports that police, especially outside Yerevan, were reluctant to act in cases of sexual and domestic violence and discouraged women from filing complaints. According to the Sexual Assault Crisis Center NGO, the investigation of sexual violence cases did not differ from the investigation of any other criminal case in terms of secrecy, investigator sensitivity, or number of interrogations, and survivors were obliged to testify or otherwise participate in investigations multiple times, including in face-to-face encounters with their abusers. In reports on standard forensic examinations into alleged rape, the expert reportedly addressed whether the subject was a virgin. Most domestic violence cases were considered by law as offenses of low or medium seriousness, and the government did not hire enough female police officers and investigators for fieldwork to address these crimes appropriately.

According to the Coalition to Stop Violence against Women, gaps in legislation and improper enforcement of the law made it difficult for domestic violence survivors to access services. Police continued to offer warnings to abusers without taking any measures of protecting the survivor. Police may grant emergency protective orders, for up to 20 days, when one member of a family has committed violence against another and there a reasonable belief of imminent risk of repeated violence; individuals must apply to a court for longer-term protective orders. Violations of emergency protective orders and court protective orders are not punishable. While the law provides that emergency orders may be given for up to 20 days, in practice there were cases where restrictive orders were issued for as little as one day. Similarly, the law provides that protective orders should be issued within 10 working days, but often courts took one or two months to issue them.

In December 2020, after a three-year trial, the court sentenced Vladik Martirosyan to 19 years in prison for attacking his former wife, Taguhi Mansuryan, and her parents with an axe in 2016. Mansuryan’s mother died as a result of the attack, while Mansuryan and her father were gravely injured. The Coalition to Stop Violence against Women expressed its hope that, following years of light sentencing of domestic violence perpetrators, the sentence could be a turning point in achieving justice for victims.

As a result of the intensive fall 2020 fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, approximately 100,000 persons were displaced into Armenia, an estimated 25,000 to 35,000 of whom were expected to remain in the country permanently, the majority of them women and girls. The fighting exacerbated the country’s deeply rooted gender inequities. Women and girls directly impacted by the fighting, including women and girls displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh and family members of those who were killed, injured, or missing in the fighting, were among the most vulnerable groups and were at imminent risk of further marginalization, exploitation, and gender-based violence.

Activists and NGOs that assisted victims of domestic violence or promoted gender equality were frequent targets of hate speech and criticized for allegedly breaking up “Armenian traditional families” and spreading “Western values.”

Sexual Harassment: Although the law addresses lewd acts and indecent behavior, it does not cover all the elements of sexual harassment. The law considers “sexual harassment” as a form of gender-based discrimination, including acts of a sexual nature having a verbal or physical manifestation or any situation aimed at humiliating dignity, intimidation, hostility, or degradation. It does not include reference to quid pro quo elements, such as demands that an individual agree to a sexual demand to receive a benefit at work or in another context. The labor code does not have any reference to sexual harassment, and there is no specific law prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace or providing criminal penalties or civil remedies for sexual harassment in the workplace.

Observers believed sexual harassment of women in the workplace and the political arena was widespread and was not adequately addressed by the government. There is no confidential and secure system for submitting complaints on sexual harassment in the workplace, a taboo topic that was not covered in government awareness-raising campaigns or the Gender Equality Strategy and Plan of Actions for 2019-2023.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

In its June submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination of Violence against Women (CEDAW), two NGOs, the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) and the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, reported a lack of access to appropriate and safe sexual and reproductive health-care services for women from marginalized groups. The state did not ensure accessibility of health services in remote rural areas, including emergency gynecological care, and did not ensure that health workers received adequate and continuing training on sexual and reproductive health practices with special attention to marginalized groups of women, including lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women; women with HIV; and Yezidi women. According to a different WRC report, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the fall 2020 fighting, women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services worsened, especially for those in vulnerable groups and women with disabilities.

Physical barriers, a lack of accessible information and communication, inaccessible training or treatment equipment, and health-care professionals who lacked relevant knowledge limited the access of women with disabilities – especially those in the rural areas – to health services, including sexual and reproductive health-care services. There were no sign language interpreters in medical institutions, and women therefore had to find a corresponding specialist, which was an expensive service. Persons with hearing and visual disabilities and persons with intellectual disabilities had no access to alternative formats for health-care-related information. Cultural barriers continued to impact access to sexual and reproductive health services. There were no government policies preventing individuals’ ability to be informed and access sexual and reproductive health services.

Emergency healthcare was available to manage any complications resulting from abortion. There were no government programs to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: Men and women enjoy equal legal status in all spheres, but discrimination based on gender was a problem in both the public and private sectors. There were reports of discrimination against women with respect to occupation, employment, and pay. The law does not prohibit discrimination in access to credit based on sex.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: Despite legislative changes banning such practices and related public-awareness campaigns, data on newborns continued to indicate a skewed sex ratio at birth. According to the Statistical Committee of Armenia, the boy-to-girl ratio at birth in 2020 was 110 to 100. Women’s rights groups considered gender-biased sex selection practices as part of a broader problem of gender inequality in the country.

Australia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. The laws of individual states and territories provide the penalties for rape. Maximum penalties range from 12 years’ to life imprisonment, depending on the jurisdiction and aggravating factors.

The law prohibits violence against women, including domestic abuse, and the government enforced the law. The laws of individual states and territories provide the penalties for domestic violence. Violence against women remained a problem, particularly in indigenous communities. Indigenous women were 32 times as likely to be hospitalized due to family violence as nonindigenous women, according to a 2018 report.

According to a 2020 statement by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of women who experienced partner violence in the last decade remained relatively stable. Women were more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence, including homicide, across all states and territories. The Institute of Criminology released a paper in February that analyzed the prevalence of domestic violence against women during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research showed that 4.2 percent of women had experienced physical violence from a cohabiting partner, while 5.8 percent had experienced coercive control. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, pregnant women, women with a long-term restrictive health condition, women from non-English speaking backgrounds, and younger women were more likely to experience physical or sexual violence or coercive control in the three months prior to the survey.

Federal and state government programs provide support for victims, including funding for numerous women’s shelters. Police received training in responding to domestic violence. Federal, state, and territorial governments collaborated on the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-22, the first effort to coordinate action at all levels of government to reduce violence against women.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Complaints of sexual harassment can lead to criminal proceedings or disciplinary action against the defendant and compensation claims by the plaintiff. The Human Rights Commission receives complaints of sexual harassment as well as sex discrimination. The penalties vary across states and territories.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

State and territorial governments provided comprehensive sex education and sexual health and family planning services. Women had access to contraception and skilled medical care, including attendance by skilled health-care workers during pregnancy and childbirth. Indigenous persons in isolated communities had more difficulty accessing such services, including menstrual health- and hygiene-related products, than the population in general. Cultural factors and language barriers also inhibited use of sexual health and family planning services by indigenous persons, and rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy among the indigenous population were higher than among the general population. Government, at national and state and territory levels, provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under laws related to family, religion, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance, as well as employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. The government enforced the law effectively.

Employment discrimination against women occurred, and there was a much-publicized gender pay gap (see section 7.d.).

Azerbaijan

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, and conviction for it carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Spousal rape is also illegal, but observers stated police did not effectively investigate such claims.

In October a minor and her family went public regarding an alleged August 2020 rape after the Yasamal Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the case due to a purported lack of evidence. The family claimed the case was not taken seriously, as shown by a year of official inaction and mishandling of the investigation; the family attributed the mishandling to their activism and opposition party membership. The resulting media attention caused the Prosecutor General’s Office to reopen the case and place the accused offender in pretrial detention.

The law establishes a framework for the investigation of domestic violence complaints, defines a process to issue restraining orders, and calls for the establishment of a shelter and rehabilitation center for survivors. Some critics of the domestic violence law asserted that a lack of clear implementing guidelines reduced its effectiveness. Activists reported that police continued to view domestic violence as a family matter and did not effectively intervene to protect survivors, including in cases where husbands abused or killed their wives. On September 30, police sergeant Ismail Mammadov used his service weapon to kill his wife, Khanym Mammadova, in a Baku police station after she came to the station to report his frequent beatings.

The SCFWCA addressed the problem of domestic violence by conducting public awareness campaigns and working to improve the socioeconomic situation of domestic violence survivors. In November 2020 the president approved the National Action Plan to Combat Domestic Violence for 2020-23. The government and an independent NGO each ran a shelter providing assistance and counseling to survivors of trafficking and domestic violence. In December 2020 the SCFWCA, together with the UN Population Fund, established an emergency hotline for gender-based violence. Callers could use the hotline to access free legal assistance, counseling support, and information concerning gender and domestic violence.

On August 8, the Prosecutor General’s Office issued a statement that in the first six months of the year, 33 women were victims of premeditated murders by family members; the office urged the public to report instances of domestic violence to authorities. The statement followed the forced dispersal by police of activists rallying to call attention to the problem of domestic violence (see section 2.b., Freedom of Peaceful Assembly.)

Sexual Harassment: The government rarely enforced the prohibition of sexual harassment or pursued legal action against individuals accused of sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Contraception was not available through the national health care system but could be purchased from private outlets. The cost of contraceptives for persons with limited income, a lack of education, and a lack of counseling limited the usage of contraceptives. Patriarchal norms based on cultural, historical, and socioeconomic factors in some cases limited women’s reproductive rights. For example, it was expected that women would become pregnant without any delay upon marriage.

The government referred survivors of sexual violence to free medical care including sexual and reproductive services. Emergency contraception was not available as part of the clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Although women nominally enjoy the same legal rights as men, societal and employment-based discrimination remained a problem. According to the State Statistical Committee, there was discrimination against women in employment, including wide disparities in pay and higher rates of unemployment.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: The gender ratio of children born in the country during the year was 114 boys for 100 girls, according to the SCFWCA. Local experts reported gender-biased sex selection was widespread, predominantly in rural regions. The SCFWCA conducted seminars and public media campaigns to raise awareness of and address the problem.

Bahrain

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal, although the penal code allows men accused of rape to marry female survivors to avoid punishment. The law does not address spousal rape. Penalties for rape include life imprisonment or execution when the survivor is younger than age 16, the rapist is the survivor’s custodian or guardian, or the rape causes death.

The law states violence against women is a crime. Nevertheless, domestic violence against women was common, according to several women’s rights organizations. Although government leaders and some members of parliament participated in awareness-raising activities during the year, including debates on additional legislation, authorities devoted little attention to supporting public campaigns aimed at the problem. The government maintained a shelter for women and children who were survivors of domestic violence. The law provides that local police officials should be contacted in cases of domestic violence and that the public prosecutor may investigate if information is passed from police to them. Survivors of domestic violence, however, reported difficulty knowing whom to contact or how to proceed when filing a complaint.

The government did not provide statistics on documented instances or prosecutions physical or sexual abuse of women.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C was rarely practiced. No specific law prohibits the practice, although legal experts previously indicated the act falls under criminal code provisions that prohibit “permanent disability to another person.”

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: By law “honor” killings are charged as a homicide and punishable with life in prison or a death sentence. The penal code provides a prison sentence for killing a spouse caught in an act of adultery, whether male or female. There were no cases of honor killings reported during the year.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, including insulting or committing an indecent act towards a woman in public, with penalties of imprisonment and fines. Although the government sometimes enforced the law, sexual harassment remained a widespread problem for women, especially foreign female domestic workers.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

There are no known legal barriers or penalties for accessing contraception. Health centers did not require women to obtain spousal consent for provision of most family planning services but did require such consent for women seeking sterilization procedures. Mothers giving birth out of wedlock in public or government-run hospitals often faced challenges in obtaining birth certificates for their children.

Contraceptives were available without prescription throughout the country regardless of nationality, gender, age, or marital status. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, although emergency contraception was not available.

Discrimination: Women have the right to initiate divorce proceedings in family courts, but unlike for men, both Shia and Sunni religious courts may refuse the request. In divorce cases the courts routinely granted custody of daughters younger than age nine and sons younger than age seven to Shia mothers, with Shia fathers typically gaining custody once girls and boys reached the ages of nine and seven, respectively. Sunni women were able to retain custody of daughters until age 17 and sons until age 15. Regardless of custody decisions, the father retains guardianship, or the right to make all legal decisions for the child, until age 21. A noncitizen woman automatically loses custody of her children if she divorces their citizen father “without just cause.” Any divorced woman who remarries loses custody of her children from a prior marriage.

The basis for family law is sharia, as interpreted by Sunni and Shia religious experts. In 2017 King Hamad ratified the Shia portion of the Unified Family Law codifying the rights of Shia citizens, in particular women, according to the civil code on issues such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. Shia and Sunni family law is enforced by separate judicial bodies composed of religious authorities charged with interpreting sharia. The revised civil law provides access to family courts for all women, providing the standardized application of the law and further legal recourse, since decisions made by family court judges are subject to review by the Supreme Judicial Council. In instances of mixed Sunni-Shia marriages, families may choose which court hears the issue.

Lawyers expressed concern regarding the long waiting periods for final judgments in Shia courts, particularly in divorce cases.

Women may own and inherit property and represent themselves in all public and legal matters. In the absence of a direct male heir, Shia women may inherit all of their husband’s property, while Sunni women inherit only a portion, with the brothers or other male relatives of the deceased also receiving a share. The government respected wills directing the division of assets according to the deceased.

Bangladesh

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law only prohibits rape of girls and women by men and physical spousal abuse, but the law excludes marital rape if the girl or woman is older than 13. Conviction of rape may be punished by life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Credible human rights organizations found rape remained a serious issue in the country, with reported rapes throughout the year roughly keeping pace with previous years. Domestic human rights group ASK reported at least 1,321 women were raped during the year. In comparison Odhikar reported 1,538 women and children were raped in 2020; among them, 577 were women, and 919 were younger than age 18. There were allegations of rapists blackmailing survivors by threatening to release the video of the rape on social media.

Rights groups reported violence against women in all forms increased throughout the pandemic. ASK reported 640 women were survivors of domestic violence during the year, including 372 who died as a result of the violence. NGOs mobilized to address an increase in gender-based violence during the pandemic. There were reports of sexual violence committed with impunity. On June 14, actress Shamsunnahar Smriti, popularly known as Pori Moni, filed a case alleging businessman Nasir Mahmood and five other men attempted to rape and kill her at the Dhaka Boat Club. On August 4, the RAB removed Moni from her apartment during a raid in which agents allegedly found illegal substances including alcohol and narcotics. Some activists stated the police raid was in response to her filing a rape case against a powerful businessman.

On April 26, college student Mosarat Jahan Munia was found dead in her apartment in Dhaka. Nusrat Jahan, Munia’s sister filed a case against Bashundhara Group managing director Sayem Sobhan Anvir Anvi, alleging he abetted Munia’s reported suicide. On July 19, police submitted the final probe report exonerating Anvir of involvement in Munia’s death. On July 26, 51 activists and leaders across the country demanded a reinvestigation into her death, stating, “We believe a proper investigation and appropriate trial for Munia’s suicide or murder is essential in maintaining public confidence in the rule of law of the country.”

In response to a September 2020 gang rape case in Sylhet, Feminists Across Generations, a local group working against gender-based violence and abuse against women, launched “Rage Against Rape,” a movement declaring gender-based violence a national emergency. The organization’s 10-point plan urged for reform and argued the death penalty for conviction would not solve rape culture or gender-based violence. The organization advocated for women and girls’ safety from violence and raised awareness of individual cases of rape. Separately the Rape Law Reform Coalition, a coalition of 17 organizations, continued to advocate for its “Rape Law Reform Now” campaign, another 10-point plan urging for legal and institutional reforms.

According to guidelines for handling rape cases, the officer in charge of a police station must record any information relating to rape or sexual assault irrespective of the place of occurrence. Chemical and DNA tests must be conducted within 48 hours from when the incident was reported. Guidelines also stipulate every police station must have a female police officer available to survivors of rape or sexual assault during the recording of the case by the duty officer. The statements of the survivor must be recorded in the presence of a lawyer, social worker, protection officer, or any other individual the survivor deems appropriate. Survivors with disabilities should be provided with government-supported interpretation services, if necessary, and the investigating officer along with a female police officer should escort the survivor to a timely medical examination.

A collection of political, sociocultural, and human rights groups stated incidents of rape continued to occur due to a culture of impunity. According to human rights monitors, many survivors did not report rapes due to lack of access to legal services, social stigma, fear of further harassment, and the legal requirement to produce witnesses. The burden is on the rape survivor to prove a rape occurred, using medical evidence.

Belarus

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men in general but does not include separate provisions on marital rape. The penalty for conviction of rape with aggravating factors is three to 15 years’ imprisonment. While sexual assault and rape continued to be significant problems, authorities generally prosecuted cases against nonspousal rape. For example, in October police in Barysau arrested a 57-year-old man on charges of raping a 16-year-old girl. According to police the case was considered under the law as rape of a known minor, which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of five to 13 years, and the abuser had been previously convicted on similar accounts. According to NGOs, authorities often did not adequately consider spousal rape incidents and did not prosecute such cases unless they involved severe aggravating factors and direct threats to victims’ lives or deaths.

Domestic violence was a significant problem, and authorities did not take effective measures to prevent it or its root causes, such as substance abuse, unemployment, and other economic, cultural, and social problems. For example, police in a village in the Lida region reported that a man continuously abused his common-law spouse. The man was sentenced in June 2020 to three months in prison for abuse, but in July 2020 before beginning his sentence, he attacked his spouse with a knife, injuring her face and chest. For the attack, in March he was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of attempted murder. Nevertheless, the woman continued to claim she had no problem with her spouse and told doctors her injuries were accidental.

Authorities continued to issue protective orders mandating the separation of survivors and abusers and provided temporary accommodations for the duration of the orders. It also operated 138 crisis rooms that provided limited shelter and psychological and medical assistance to survivors.

The law establishes a separate definition of domestic violence and provides for implementation of protective orders, which are from three to 30 days in duration. The law requires authorities to provide survivors and abusers with temporary accommodation until the protective orders expire. In addition the law prescribes a substantial fine or detention for up to 15 days for violating protective orders, battery, intended infliction of pain, and psychological or physical suffering committed against a close family member.

According to women’s rights advocates, protective orders and crisis rooms remained ineffective and provided limited protection of the rights of survivors. Efforts to prosecute offenders and ensure legal and other remedies to correct their behavior were also lacking. NGO experts continued to note the lack of state-supported designated shelters and specialists who work with survivors, children, and aggressors.

According to a senior Ministry of Internal Affairs official, as of April officers were monitoring more than 8,000 individuals who had committed domestic violence-related crimes, including more than 10,000 administrative cases filed from January to March. The official stated the number of severe crimes related to domestic violence decreased from 109 to 78 cases in January through March, compared with the same period in 2020, and the number of persons killed by their spouse declined from 27 to 22. On October 25-30, Minsk city police reportedly inspected residences of families with a record of domestic violence or that were in vulnerable conditions and held “preventive” talks with them.

On July 15, the NGO Gender Perspectives stopped operating a nationwide hotline for domestic violence after authorities searched its offices and interrogated several personnel on July 14 in the framework of a broad crackdown on civil society (see sections 2 and 5). In 2020 it had also stopped working with the Ministry of Internal Affairs representative following the government’s crackdown on demonstrators. As of April the shelter and hotline providers had not seen an increase in requests for help in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, associating this with the lack of a government-imposed countrywide lockdown or self-isolation requirements. The Ministries of Internal Affairs, Labor and Social Protection, and Health Care and NGOs continued a campaign, “Home without Violence,” that was held on April 5-9. The campaign was covered by state media.

On September 28, authorities liquidated Gender Perspectives, which in addition to operating the hotline, had cooperated with authorities to play a nationwide role in assisting domestic violence and trafficking survivors, advocating for their rights, promoting a separate law on countering domestic violence, and assisting victims. The NGO was one of many civil society organizations closed in cases widely seen as politically motivated (see section 5).

Despite numerous inspections by the government throughout the year, as of December the NGO Radislava continued to operate a private shelter for survivors of domestic violence, to advocate for their rights, and to assist women and their children with medical care, legal aid, employment, social reintegration, and psychological therapy. On November 9, police detained the former coordinator of Radislava’s shelter and leading women’s rights advocate for allegedly coordinating protests in 2020. As of December she remained in pretrial detention.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment reportedly was widespread, but no specific laws, other than those against physical assault, address the problem. Victims of sexual harassment did not have access to criminal or civil remedies for sexual harassment that occurred in the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: In prior years women with disabilities, especially those who were institutionalized, as well as pregnant women whose children were diagnosed with potential disabilities in utero, reported that some doctors insisted they terminate their pregnancies. While there were no indications that the practice had changed, no specific cases were highlighted during the year by press or NGOs.

Institutionalized individuals with disabilities had no political or civil rights, and courts recognized the directors of these institutions as the legal guardians of these individuals. Institutionalized individuals were not able to provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting their reproductive health, including for sterilization, due to mental or other disabilities.

Although comprehensive education on reproductive health or pregnancy was not provided in schools, access to information on contraception was widely available. Government policy does not bar access to contraception, but some groups may oppose it on religious grounds. While there were no legal or cultural barriers to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth and skilled postpartum care was widely available, there were fewer professionals with the skills to assist with difficult pregnancies outside of Minsk. Authorities provided access to emergency health care, including emergency contraception for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The law provides for equal treatment of women with regard to religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. Women generally did not experience discrimination in such areas as marriage, divorce, child custody, education, the judicial process and other institutions, and in housing.

Although women have the same legal status as men, they experienced discrimination in employment, in access to economic resources, as well as discrimination in the workplace.

Belgium

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women or men, including spousal rape, is illegal, and the government prosecuted such cases. A convicted rapist may receive 10 to 30 years in prison. The law prohibits domestic violence and provides for fines and incarceration. Legal sanctions for domestic violence are based on the sanctions for physical violence against a third person, which range from eight days to 20 years in prison. In cases of domestic violence, these sanctions are doubled.

The activist blog StopFeminicide reported that at least 17 women died in connection with cases of rape or domestic violence during the first eight months of the year. The government did not keep a record of the number of femicides. According to 2020 federal police statistics, there were approximately 38,000 official complaints of domestic violence against men and women to include physical, psychological, or economic violence, including 175 complaints of sexual violence, during that year.

Several government-supported shelters and telephone helplines were available across the country for victims of domestic abuse.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls, and it was not a widespread practice in the country. Authorities effectively enforced the law. Reported cases were primarily filed by recent immigrants or asylum seekers. Criminal sanctions apply to persons convicted of FGM/C. According to 2017 estimates, there were more than 17,000 female minor and adult victims of FGM/C in the country, while more than 8,000 were at risk. Most potential victims were asylum seekers from Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Guinea, and Somalia.

Sexual Harassment: The law aims to prevent violence and harassment at work, obliging companies to set up internal procedures to handle employee complaints. Sexist remarks and attitudes targeting a specific individual are illegal; parties found guilty are subject to fines. The government generally enforced antiharassment laws.

A June study by the NGO Plan International of 700 persons between the ages of 15 and 24 in the cities of Brussels, Antwerp, and Charleroi found that 91 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys had been victims of some form of sexual harassment in the street. Eighty-two percent of girls reported that sexist comments and catcalling were the most frequent forms of harassment.

Another June study by the Universities of Ghent and Liege and the National Institute for Forensic Science and Criminology of 5,000 persons between the ages of 16 and 100 found that 70 percent had been victims of sexual violence in their life. Women were most affected. Within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community, 80 percent reported having experienced sexual violence.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal rights as men. The law requires equal pay for equal work and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, or motherhood as well as in access to goods, services, social welfare, and health care. The government generally enforced the law effectively, although many NGOs and feminist organizations reported women often had to accept part-time work due to conflicting family obligations.

Belize

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape. The government generally enforced the law. The law states that a person convicted of rape should be sentenced to imprisonment for eight years to life, although on occasion sentences were much lighter. Problems facing the wider justice system generally resulted in poor conviction rates for rape. Victims frequently requested the charges be dropped, often citing spousal support from the perpetrators as key to providing for their children’s well-being.

Data from the BPD indicated that 62 percent of reported sexual violence was against girls between the ages of 10 and 19. The Belize Crime Observatory, a unit of the BPD, indicated that women were the victims in 77 percent of the 1,794 domestic violence cases registered by the BPD through the end of September. Public perception was that complaints may be filed without repercussion but that insufficient numbers of police officers and inadequate funding hampered investigations.

Some NGOs working with the BDF indicated that sexual assault was a problem in the BDF. In August a BDF soldier accused a male captain of spanking him on his buttocks during a social event on BDF grounds. The matter was referred to the BPD for investigation.

Domestic violence is prohibited, and the law was generally enforced. Victims noted the procedure was lengthy but that nevertheless, perpetrators were convicted. Domestic violence is considered a civil matter; however, perpetrators were often prosecuted with criminal charges such as harm, wounding, grievous harm, rape, and marital rape. Police, prosecutors, and judges recognized both physical violence and mental injury as evidence of domestic violence. Penalties include fines and imprisonment. The law empowers the Family Court to issue protection orders against accused offenders.

In August, Mercedez Pais killed his mother-in-law, 64-year-old Angela Flores Rodriguez. Pais was beating two of Flores Rodriguez’s daughters when Flores Rodriguez intervened. Pais turned himself in to police, was charged with murder, and at the end of the year awaited trial.

The government had awareness campaigns against gender-based and domestic violence. It had a domestic violence hotline and shelters for victims. Major police stations designated domestic abuse officers. Due to understaffed police stations, however, these measures were not always effective. The NGO Live and Let Live conducted a study that found 20 percent of respondents indicated women feared for their safety at certain times and places.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides protection from sexual harassment in the workplace, including provisions against unfair dismissal of a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. The government enforced the law, but officials noted that no criminal cases had ever been brought under the law’s sexual harassment provisions. The Women’s Department, under the Ministry of Human Development, Families, and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, recognized sexual harassment as a subset of sexual violence. A representative of local NGO Tikun Olam Belize noted that some victims did not report sexual harassment due to fear of further victimization or losing their job.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Some NGOs said that in socially conservative communities, women seeking tubal ligation sought the permission of the husband for cultural and religious reasons.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services to survivors of sexual violence, but the government lacked rape response kits, including emergency contraception.

Reports noted some religiously affiliated educational institutions did not allow pregnant girls to attend school. Because of the stigma and discrimination of underage pregnancy, some families opted not to report the matter to the authorities and instead enrolled the young girl at another institution following the birth. Male adolescents involved in the case normally did not face expulsion. Because school attendance is by law compulsory only to age 14, educational institutions are not obligated to enroll pregnant girls older than 14.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law mandates equal pay for equal work, but the labor commissioner verified that men on average earned more per month than women did, often because men held higher positions. There are restrictions on women working in certain industries, including mining, construction, factories, energy, water, and transportation. The law provides for the continuity of employment and protection against unfair dismissal, including for sexual harassment in the workplace, pregnancy, or HIV status, but the law was not enforced.

Despite legal provisions for gender equality and government programs aimed at empowering women, NGOs and other observers reported women faced social and economic discrimination. Although women participated in all spheres of national life, outnumbered men in university classrooms, and had higher graduation rates from high school, women held relatively few top managerial or government positions.

In January the Supreme Court ruled that female police officers of African descent may wear their hair in dreadlocks, contrary to the instructions of the commissioner of police. The court noted that the commissioner’s interpretation of the BPD policy against dreadlocks infringed on the officers’ freedom of expression.

Benin

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape without reference to gender. Enforcement was weak due to police ineffectiveness, official corruption, and victims not reporting cases due to fear of social stigma and retaliation. Sentences for conviction of rape range from five to 20 years’ imprisonment. The law explicitly prohibits spousal rape and provides the maximum penalty for conviction of raping a domestic partner. Because of the lack of police training in collecting evidence associated with sexual assaults, ignorance of the law, and inherent difficulties survivors faced in preserving and presenting evidence in court, judges reduced most sexual offense charges to misdemeanors. The primary form of evidence used to prove sexual assault required physician certification. Since physicians were only accessible in large cities, survivors in rural areas were effectively precluded from pursuing charges.

Penalties for conviction of domestic violence range from six to 36 months’ imprisonment. Nevertheless, domestic violence against women was common. Women remained reluctant to report cases, and judges and police were reluctant to intervene in domestic disputes.

The Ministry of Social Affairs provided financial support to some survivors of abuse. The ministry’s Center for Social Promotion provided mediation services that in some cases resulted in restitution. The ministry also organized public outreach campaigns to raise public awareness of violence against girls and women. During the year the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs conducted a services-training program for survivors of rape, domestic violence, and other forms of gender-based violence to health clinic and social service first responders. On July 21, the government created the National Institute for the Promotion of Women to address complaints of violations of women’s rights and provide financial assistance to women who are survivors of violence.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and provides penalties for conviction of performing the procedure, including prison sentences of up to 10 years and substantial monetary fines. Nevertheless, FGM/C occurred, and enforcement was rare due to the code of silence associated with this crime. The practice was largely limited to remote rural areas in the north. According to UNICEF, 7 percent of girls and women ages 15 to 49 underwent FGM/C in 2018.

The government, in conjunction with NGOs and international partners, continued to raise public awareness of the dangers of the practice.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and offers protection for victims, but sexual harassment was common in the workplace and in schools. Persons convicted of sexual harassment face sentences of one to two years’ imprisonment and substantial monetary fines. The law also provides for penalties applicable to persons who are aware of sexual harassment but do not report it. Victims, however, seldom reported harassment due to fear of social stigma and retaliation; furthermore, police, examining magistrates who conduct pretrial investigations, and prosecutors lacked the legal knowledge and capacity to pursue such cases. Although laws prohibiting sexual harassment were not widely enforced, judges used other provisions in the penal code to address sexual abuses involving minors. Nevertheless, on July 19, the Cotonou Appellate Court convicted a business owner of sexual harassment of a female employee, imposed a substantial fine, and sentenced him to three months’ imprisonment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

On October 20, the National Assembly passed amendments to the 2003 Law on Sexual and Reproductive Health legalizing elective abortion. The amended law provides for termination before 12 weeks if the pregnancy is likely to aggravate or cause a situation of material, educational, professional, or moral distress incompatible with the interest of the woman, the unborn child, or both. As of November 15, the amended law had yet to be signed by the president.

Societal pressures imposed barriers to contraception. Although minors have the legal right to access contraception without parental consent, health-care workers sometimes impeded access by requiring parental consent. Cultural norms also influenced low rates of contraception. In some areas, notably the Plateau Department bordering Nigeria, traditional leaders used voodoo to threaten women to stay indoors during contraceptive campaigns, according to the Beninese Association for Social Marketing. Some religious groups, including the Roman Catholic Church and Celestial Christian Church, strongly discouraged the use of contraceptives. Poor access to reproductive health information in rural areas, poverty, and limited formal education contributed to low usage of contraceptives and high pregnancy rates. Only 13 percent of girls and women between ages 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception, and 35 percent of women had an unmet need for contraception.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence; however, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons reported being routinely refused medical care and social services because of their sexual identity.

According to the government’s 2017-2018 Demographic Health Survey, the maternal mortality rate was 391 deaths per 100,000 live births. Factors contributing to the high mortality rate were deliveries without adequate medical assistance, lack of access to emergency obstetric care, and unhygienic conditions. According to the survey, 84 percent of live births took place in a health center (most of which were public), and 20 percent of girls and women between the ages 15 and 19 were either pregnant or had already had one live birth. These rates varied dramatically with higher adolescent birth rates (24 to 38 percent) in northern departments and lower rates (ranging from 8 to 16 percent) in southern departments. See also the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) subsection for additional information.

Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for equality for women in political, economic, and social spheres, women experienced extensive discrimination in obtaining employment, credit, equal pay, and in owning or managing businesses. There were legal restrictions on women in employment, including limitations on the occupations in which women are allowed to work (see section 7.d.).

The law bans all discrimination against women in marriage and provides for the right to equal inheritance. The government and NGOs educated the public on women’s inheritance and property rights and their increased rights in marriage, including prohibitions on forced marriage, child marriage, and polygamy. The government did not enforce the law effectively, however.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penal code provides penalties for conviction of rape, sexual exploitation, and corruption of minors, including procuring children for commercial sexual exploitation; it increases penalties for cases involving children younger than age 15. The child trafficking law provides penalties for conviction of all forms of child trafficking, including child commercial sexual exploitation, prescribing penalties if convicted of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. Individuals convicted of involvement in child commercial sexual exploitation, including those who facilitate and solicit it, face imprisonment of two to five years and substantial monetary fines. The child code prohibits child pornography. Persons convicted of child pornography face sentences of two to five years’ imprisonment and substantial monetary fines.

Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Although concealed from authorities, traditional practices of killing breech babies, babies whose mothers died in childbirth, babies considered deformed, and one newborn from each set of twins (because they were considered sorcerers) occurred. The NGO Franciscan-Benin reported that communities in the four northern communes of Djougou, Gogounou, Kouande and Kandi continued to practice ritual infanticide. Authorities enforced prohibitions and discouraged the practice through door-to-door counseling and awareness raising.

Institutionalized Children: The government and human rights organizations reported poorly managed orphanages were not compliant with the law governing child protection centers. During the year the government inspected and closed several orphanages following reports of child abuse and neglect. In August the government closed one unregistered orphanage in Allada in southern Benin after inspections revealed poor living conditions and insufficient staffing. Authorities sanctioned an orphanage run by Roman Catholic nuns for using children as beggars to encourage charitable donations.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Bhutan

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and makes no reference to gender in its definition of rape. In cases of rape involving minors, sentences for conviction range from five to 15 years in prison. In extreme cases a person convicted of rape may be imprisoned for life. Spousal rape is illegal and prosecuted as a misdemeanor. In January the NCWC published the Standard Operating Procedure for Gender Based Violence Prevention and Response, which lays out policies and procedures related to gender-based violence and the roles and responsibilities of the government and civil society in combating it. According to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) 2020 Annual Report, in 2019 there were 12 reported sexual offenses committed against women, including five cases of rape. A 2017 NCWC report stated that more than two in five women experienced at least one form of sexual, physical, psychological, or economic violence.

The law prohibits domestic violence, including physical and sexual abuse. Physical abuse is prosecuted as battery under the penal code, and penalties for convicted perpetrators range from one month to three years’ imprisonment. Sexual abuse is prosecuted as a corresponding sexual offense, and punishable if convicted by three years’ to 15 years’ imprisonment. The law provides for increased sentences for conviction of second (and subsequent) domestic violence offenses.

Three police stations had protection units to address crimes involving women and children, and 11 police stations had officers specifically devoted to women and children’s matters. The government operated a dedicated toll-free helpline to report violence against women and children. The government trained police on gender abuse matters and cooperated with civil society groups that undertook further efforts, including operation of a crisis and rehabilitation center. Freedom House reported that cultural taboos resulted in the underreporting of domestic violence, although reports have increased in recent years. Between January and April 2020, there were 97 reported cases of domestic violence. Between December 2020 and January 15, there were 223 reported cases of gender-based violence. The increase in cases was reportedly due to enforced confinement and other COVID-19 pandemic measures.

Sexual Harassment: The law includes specific provisions to address sexual harassment in the workplace. NGOs reported these provisions were generally enforced. According to UNICEF, the Royal Civil Service Commission operated the Civil Service Support Desk to address sexual harassment in the civil service. The commission has designated points of contact to assist civil servants who experience sexual harassment in the workplace. The NCWC developed an internal framework to address gender matters in the workplace, including preventing and responding to sexual harassment. Approximately 29 government agencies and local governments have adopted the framework. The NCWC and Royal Civil Service Commission conducted awareness programs on sexual harassment and related legislations.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

A lack of awareness of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care contributed to unplanned early pregnancies, postpregnancy complications, child abandonment, and financial instability. In 2020 more than 237 cases of teenage pregnancy were reported. The World Bank reported that equity and access to medical care for pregnant women in some remote rural areas was a challenge because of difficult terrain, leading to disparities in access to skilled birth attendants.

The NCWC and a government funded NGO provided shelter, and medical and counseling services to women and girls who are survivors of violence, including sexual violence.

Discrimination: The law mandates the government take appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination and exploitation of women and girls, including trafficking, abuse, violence, harassment, and intimidation, at work and at home. The government generally enforced this law. The law is gender neutral and provides equal rights of property inheritance to female spouses and children.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography, child sex trafficking, and the sale of children. Authorities generally enforced the law. The legal age of consent is 16 for both boys and girls.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Brunei

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Secular law stipulates imprisonment from eight to 30 years plus caning with a minimum of 12 strokes as punishment for rape. The SPC provides stoning to death as the maximum punishment for rape. The law does not criminalize rape against men or spousal rape and explicitly states that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape if she is not younger than 14 (15 if she is ethnic Chinese). There is no specific domestic violence law, but authorities arrested individuals in domestic violence cases under the law on protection of women and girls. The criminal penalty under the law is one to two weeks in jail and a fine for a minor assault; an assault resulting in serious injury is punishable by caning and a prison sentence of up to five years. Islamic family law provides protections against spousal abuse and for the granting of protection orders, and it has been interpreted to cover sexual assault. The penalty for violating a protection order is a significant fine, maximum imprisonment of six months, or both.

Police investigated domestic violence only in response to a report by a victim but reportedly did respond effectively in such cases.

The government reported rape cases, but there were no data available on the prevalence of the crime. All rape cases are tried under the secular civil law. A special police unit staffed by female officers investigated domestic abuse and child abuse complaints.

At a December 2020 event highlighting the importance of protecting women’s and girls’ human rights and community approaches to preventing gender-based violence, participants said it was difficult to address gender-based violence because of the lack of support by law enforcement and courts for victims (especially minors); lack of resources and expertise among NGOs for dealing with gender-based violence issues; and poor coordination between NGOs and government offices.

The Department of Community Development in the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports provided domestic violence and abuse counseling for women and their spouses. Some female and minor victims of domestic violence and rape were placed in protective custody at a government-sponsored shelter while waiting for their cases to be scheduled in court. Sharia courts staffed by male and female officials offered counseling to married couples in domestic violence cases. Both secular and sharia courts recognized assault as grounds for divorce.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No law criminalizes FGM/C for women of any age. There were no statistics on the prevalence of FGM/C, but international media and others reported that in general Type 4 FGM/C was done within 40 days of birth based on religious belief and custom and that the practice was widespread. Contacts also reported that the procedure was sometimes performed outside of a medical setting. The Ministry of Religious Affairs declared “circumcision” for Muslim girls (sunat) to be a religious rite obligatory in Islam and described it as the removal of the hood of the clitoris (Type 1 per World Health Organization classification).

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and states that whoever utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object intending to insult the modesty of a woman shall be punished by up to three years in prison and a fine. The law also stipulates that whoever assaults or uses criminal force, intending thereby to outrage, or knowing the act is likely to outrage the modesty of a person, shall be punished by caning and a maximum imprisonment of five years. During the March Legislative Council sessions, members reported a government study showed 55 percent of civil servants faced sexual harassment in the workplace and 75 per cent of those who encountered sexual harassment did not report the incident and 85 per cent were unaware there were laws to protect them.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Social, cultural, and religious pressures affected some women’s access to contraception or health care for sexually transmitted infections. Unmarried Muslim women had difficulty obtaining contraception from government clinics, turning to private clinics or reproductive services abroad instead. Women seeking medical assistance for complications arising from illegal abortions were reported to police after being given care. Unenforced provisions of the law set imprisonment or fines as punishments for abortion; there have been no prosecutions for illegal abortions for several years. The government provides access to health services, including emergency contraception, for sexual violence survivors.

Discrimination: In accordance with the government’s interpretation of the Quran, Muslim women and men are accorded different rights, particularly as codified in sharia. Secular civil law permits female citizens to own property and other assets, including business properties. Noncitizen husbands of citizens may not apply for permanent resident status until they reside in the country for a minimum of seven years, whereas noncitizen wives may do so after two years of marriage. Although citizenship is automatically inherited from citizen fathers, citizen mothers may pass their nationality to their children only through an application process in which children are first issued a certificate of identity (and considered stateless).

Bulgaria

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, and authorities generally enforced its provisions when violations came to their attention. Sentences for rape convictions range up to 20 years in prison. There is no specific criminal law against spousal rape; authorities could prosecute spousal rape under the general rape statute, but rarely did so.

The law provides penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for crimes committed in the context of domestic violence. The law defines domestic violence as systematic physical, sexual, or psychological violence; subjection to economic dependence; or coercive restriction of the personal life, personal liberty, and personal rights of a parent or child, a spouse or former spouse, a person with whom one shares a child, a cohabiting partner or former cohabiting partner, or a member or former member of the same household. The law restricts the persons who can report domestic violence to the victim or the victim’s direct relatives and excludes friends and other unrelated persons. The law empowers courts to impose fines, issue restraining or eviction orders, and order special counseling. Noncompliance with a restraining order may result in imprisonment for up to three years, or a fine. In September the Sofia regional prosecution service reported a 24 percent increase in the number of domestic violence cases in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2020. Over 10 percent of the cases involved a death threat.

According to the NGO Center for Creative Justice, the law does not provide sufficient protection to victims of domestic violence. The ombudsman criticized the legal provisions that exonerate an offender from prosecution for inflicting a medium injury (e.g., a broken tooth) or a more serious injury, such as deliberately infecting a person with a sexually transmitted disease.

In one example, in May the Dobrich regional court issued a restraining order against a 29-year-old man who entered a guilty plea and gave him a one-year suspended sentence for pouring gasoline on his former girlfriend and threatening to set her on fire. According to media reports, the two had lived together for a few years during which time the woman suffered numerous instances of physical and psychological violence but was afraid to complain to the authorities. After the woman broke up with him in January, the batterer stalked, intimidated, and harassed the woman.

NGOs criticized authorities for not tracking domestic violence cases and not keeping statistics, which NGOs claimed were needed for authorities to assess the risk of abuse turning deadly.

The Animus Association Foundation and other NGOs provided short-term protection and counseling to domestic violence survivors in 14 crisis centers and shelters throughout the country. The government funded an NGO-operated 24-hour free helpline that survivors could call for counseling, information, and support, as well as to report abuse. Police and social workers referred domestic violence survivors to NGO-run shelters. According to the Bulgarian Fund for Women, which provided free legal and psychological consultations, domestic violence was still a taboo outside big cities where there was less access to counseling and protection services.

Sexual Harassment: The law identifies sexual harassment as a specific form of discrimination rather than a criminal offense, although prosecutors may identify cases in which harassment involves coercion combined with sexual exploitation. If prosecuted as coercion, sexual harassment is punishable by up to six years in prison.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Women in poor rural and Romani communities had less access to contraception due to poverty and lack of information and education. The cost of contraception was not covered by health insurance. Individuals younger than 16 could not schedule an appointment with a gynecologist or have an HIV test performed without parental consent.

Romani NGOs stated that many municipalities set discriminatory requirements for access to health services to restrict Romani women’s access to them (see Systematic Racial and Ethnic Violence and Discrimination, below).

Lack of health insurance sometimes limited skilled attendance at childbirth. In April the NGO LARGO Association issued a report which estimated that 60 to 70 percent of all uninsured women, or between 8 and 9 percent of all women in the country, did not receive prenatal care and had no access to relevant medical tests. According to the report, 57 percent of uninsured women were Roma. Home births were illegal, and medical personnel could be prosecuted if they assisted them.

Victims of sexual violence, who NGOs stated were mainly uninsured, often did not have access to sexual and reproductive health services. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape. Trafficking victims had access to health care through NGOs approved by authorities.

Discrimination: While the law provides women the same legal status and rights as men, women faced some discrimination in economic participation and political empowerment. The law provides for equal opportunities in all spheres of public, economic, and political life; equal access to public resources; equal treatment; exclusion of gender-based discrimination and violence; balanced representation of men and women in all decision-making bodies; and overcoming gender-based stereotypes.

In June the government adopted a two-year national gender equality plan that focuses on labor market equality, economic independence, decreasing the gender income gap, equal participation in decision making in politics, business, and society, combating gender-based violence, and overcoming gender stereotypes.

According to the National Statistical Institute, in 2020 women received on average 14 percent lower wages and pensions that were 32 percent lower than those for men. Women faced discrimination in employment, in the workplace, and in access to pension benefits and retirement (see section 7.d.).

Burkina Faso

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Gender-based violence was prevalent, including rape and domestic violence. According to the penal code, rape is punishable by a prison sentence of 11 to 20 years and a substantial monetary fine when committed against an adult or minor age 13 years or older. The penalty is 11 to 30 years in prison and even higher monetary fines when the survivor is younger than 13. Rape was widely underreported in part due to societal taboos and the drawn-out judicial process owing to the overburdened justice system. Media, however, reported on the prevalence of rape cases and subsequent convictions.

Two women were killed by their spouses on May 2 and May 9 in the Nord Region. Following these deaths hundreds of women marched on the local headquarters of the gendarmerie, where the men had taken refuge. Carrying tree branches and threatening to whip any man in their path, the protesters demanded justice for the two women, both of whom had been pregnant. The minister of women joined the demonstrations to show solidarity with the women but urged the crowd to allow the cases to work their way through the justice system.

On August 31, a man was sentenced to 48 months in prison plus a fine of 500,000 CFA francs ($177) for forcing a European woman, in May in a park in Ouagadougou, to perform oral sex on him under threat of stabbing her.

Survivors of domestic violence seldom pursued legal action due to shame, fear, or reluctance to take their spouses to court. For the few cases that went to court, the Ministry of Justice could provide no statistics on prosecutions, convictions, or punishment. On International Women’s Day, the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, Family, and Humanitarian Affairs launched a toll-free number for survivors of domestic abuse. According to the head of the center, more than 425 calls were received in the hotline’s first two months of operation and 30 survivors received care. A government-run shelter for survivors of gender-based violence housed women and girls regardless of nationality. In Ouagadougou the ministry assisted survivors of domestic violence at four centers. The ministry sometimes provided counseling and housing for abused women.

The ministry has a legal affairs section to educate women on their rights, and several NGOs cooperated to protect women’s rights. To raise awareness of gender discrimination and reduce gender inequalities, the ministry organized numerous workshops and several awareness campaigns mainly in the Nord, Sahel, Est, and Centre-Ouest Regions.

The law makes conviction of “abduction to impose marriage or union without consent” punishable by six months to five years in prison. Conviction of sexual abuse or torture or conviction of sexual slavery is punishable by two to five years in prison. Conviction of these crimes may also carry substantial monetary fines.

The law requires police to provide for protection of domestic violence survivors and their minor children and mandates the establishment of chambers in the High Court with exclusive jurisdiction over cases of violence against women and girls. According to the minister of women, in 2020 the High Court of Ouagadougou heard more than 120 rape cases, 43 cases of assault, and 18 abduction cases of young girls. The law requires all police and gendarmerie units to designate officers to assist women affected or threatened by gender-based violence and to respond to emergencies; however, some units had not complied by year’s end. It also mandates the creation of care and protection centers in each commune for gender-based violence survivors and a government support fund for their care. The centers receive survivors on an emergency basis, offer them security, provide support services (including medical and psychosocial support), and, when possible, refer them to court.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The practice of FGM/C is prohibited by law, and those found guilty are liable to a prison sentence of one to 10 years with a substantial monetary fine. If a victim of FGM/C dies following the excision, the sentence increases to a term of 11 to 20 years’ imprisonment and an even higher monetary fine. Accomplices are also punishable with penalties. While comprehensive statistics were not available, as of 2019 the Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, Family, and Humanitarian Affairs had registered 185 FGM/C cases in the Sud-Ouest Region. Some arrests were reported.

Media reported some FGM/C cases. For example, on May 4, five girls ages between one and three years were excised in the village of Masbore, Nord Region. On June 29, the Ouahigouya Court held a criminal hearing on the case and sentenced four defendants to 24 months’ imprisonment with a suspended sentence and a fine of 100,000 CFA francs ($177). In July, 10 girls ages seven to 11 were excised in the village of Sideratougou in Banfora, but no arrests were reported.

The government continued to fund and operate a toll-free number to receive anonymous reports of the practice. The government continued to fund the Permanent Secretariat of the National Council for the Fight against the Practice of Excision. The council strengthened the skills of regional coordinators of women’s associations in the campaign against excision through training. The government also provided training to hundreds of health workers to strengthen their skills in caring for FGM/C-related medical complications. On July 14, President Kabore spoke with representatives of youth from the 13 regions of the country engaged in the campaign.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: In the Centre-Est and Nord Regions, primarily in rural areas, self-proclaimed traditional healers performed rituals in which participants denounced others as “witches” whom they held responsible for their misfortune. Those accused, often elderly women, and less frequently men, were sometimes tied up, humiliated, beaten, brutalized, banned from their villages, or killed. Widows were disproportionately accused of witchcraft by male relatives, who then claimed their land and other inheritance. The law, which was seldom enforced, makes the conviction of physical or moral abuse of women or girls accused of witchcraft punishable by one to five years in prison, a substantial monetary fine, or both.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides for sentences of three months to one year in prison and a substantial monetary fine for conviction of sexual harassment; the maximum penalty applies if the perpetrator is a relative or in a position of authority, or if the survivor is “vulnerable.” The government was ineffective in enforcing the law. Owing to social taboos, survivors rarely reported sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Government and private health centers were open to all women and offered reproductive health services, skilled medical assistance during childbirth (essential obstetric and postpartum care), and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Family planning services were free in all public health facilities. Remote villages, however, often lacked these facilities or did not have adequate transportation infrastructure to permit easy access.

According to a March survey, modern contraceptive prevalence among women in union increased from 28 percent in February 2020 to 32 percent in March. The survey revealed an increase in unavailability for certain methods such as the implant, the pill, and the male condom in health facilities in the first quarter of the year compared with 2020. The survey revealed unmet reproductive needs dropped from 32 percent to 17 percent between December 2014 and March.

Geographical distance, illiteracy, insufficient capacity of providers, lack of medical supplies, and religious and social beliefs regarding the negative effects of contraceptive methods were the main barriers to access to contraception. Women’s limited decision-making power and men’s lack of support for and understanding of family planning were also barriers to access to contraception.

The government worked with international and local aid organizations to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for IDPs.

The country’s volatile security situation impacted women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health needs because 12 percent of the health centers in the Nord, Sahel, and Est Regions closed due to insecurity.

In 2016, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Demography, the maternal mortality rate was 320 deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the UN Population Fund, between 2014 and 2019, 80 percent of births were attended by skilled health personnel. Among the leading causes of maternal deaths were hemorrhage (30 percent) and infection (23 percent).

The government’s official midwifery curriculum included components on the prevention of FGM/C and care for women and girls affected by it.

Discrimination: Although the law generally provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, labor, property, and inheritance laws, discrimination frequently occurred. Labor laws provide that all workers, male and female, should receive equal pay for equal working conditions, qualifications, and performance. Women nevertheless generally received lower pay for equal work, had less education, and owned less property. There were legal restrictions on women’s employment under certain working conditions and in the same occupations and industries as men.

Although the law provides equal property and inheritance rights for women and men, land tenure practices emphasized family and communal land requirements more than individual ownership rights. As a result, authorities often denied women the right to own property, particularly real estate. Many citizens, particularly in rural areas, held to traditional beliefs that did not recognize inheritance rights for women and regarded a woman as property that could be inherited upon her husband’s death.

The government conducted media campaigns to change attitudes toward women. It sponsored several community outreach efforts and awareness campaigns to promote women’s rights.

Burma

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women and men is illegal but remained a significant problem, and the regime did not enforce the law effectively. Rape of a woman outside of marriage carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Spousal rape is not a crime unless the wife is younger than the legal age of marriage (which may vary according to ethnicity or religion), and the penalty is a maximum of two years in prison. The law prohibits committing bodily harm against another person, but there are no laws specifically against domestic violence or spousal abuse unless the wife is younger than the legal age of marriage. Overlapping and at times contradictory legal provisions complicated implementation of these limited protections.

Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a serious problem. Abuse within families was prevalent and considered socially acceptable. Spousal abuse or domestic violence was difficult to measure because the government did not maintain comprehensive statistics and survivor typically did not report it, although the government attempted to document cases, and reported cases were on the rise.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and prescribes a maximum penalty of two years in prison if the harassment involves physical contact. Harassment is punishable by a fine or up to one year in prison. The regime did not report information on the prevalence of the problem, and many of these crimes were unreported. NGOs reported regime police investigators were not sensitive to survivors and rarely followed through with investigations or prosecutions.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The law allows the government to impose coercive birth-spacing requirements – 36 months between children – if the president or national government designates “special regions” for health care based on factors such as population, migration rate, natural resources, birth rates, and food availability. In such special regions, the government may create special health-care organizations to perform various tasks, including establishing family planning regulations. The government did not designate any such special regions.

In Rakhine State, local authorities prohibited Rohingya families from having more than two children, although some Rohingya with household registration documents reportedly circumvented the law.

The law otherwise limits the right of individuals to manage their reproductive health. Access to sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, for sexual violence survivors through public and private facilities was very limited and further exacerbated by the collapse of the public-health system after the coup. While September reports from Population Services International indicated that demand for oral contraceptives increased significantly in Rangoon after the coup, access to family planning was limited in rural areas. Economic hardship and security concerns in conflict-affected regions also limited access to family planning.

The Department of Social Welfare adapted gender-based violence services to COVID-19 restrictions, including expanding virtual platforms for online training.

The United Nations estimated in 2017 that the maternal mortality rate nationwide was 250 deaths per 100,000 live births. No more recent reliable data were available. The 2017 National Maternal Death Surveillance and Response Report stated that the maternal mortality ratio was highest in Shan, Chin, and Ayeyarwady States. NGOs regularly reported throughout the year that humanitarian access and movement restrictions among Rohingya limited access to health-care services and contributed to maternal mortality rates in Rakhine State being higher than the national average. Complications resulting from unsafe abortions were also a leading cause of maternal deaths.

Other major factors influencing maternal mortality included poverty; the high rate of home births (63 percent; a number that likely rose after the coup); limited availability of and access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and information, including contraception, and maternal and newborn health services; low coverage of antenatal care visits; and the lack of access to services from appropriately trained and skilled birth attendants and other trained community health workers.

Discrimination: By law women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, including property and inheritance rights and religious and personal status, but regime officials did not enforce the law. Communities around the country implemented customary law to address matters of marriage, property, and inheritance that differed from the provisions of statutory law and which was often discriminatory against women. The law requires equal pay for equal work, but the formal sector did not respect this requirement, and the regime did not actively enforce it. NGOs reported other forms of workplace discrimination were common (see also section 7.d.). The law restricts the ability of Buddhist women to marry non-Buddhist men by requiring public notification prior to any such marriage and allowing objections to the marriage to be raised in court. The law was rarely enforced. Poverty affected women disproportionately.

Burundi

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape against men and women, including spousal rape, with penalties of up to 30 years’ imprisonment for conviction. The law prohibits domestic abuse of a spouse, with punishment if convicted ranging from fines to three to five years’ imprisonment. The government did not enforce the law uniformly, and rape and other domestic and sexual violence were serious problems.

A 2016 law provides for the creation of a special gender-based crimes court, makes gender-based violence crimes unpardonable, and provides stricter punishment for police officers and judges who conceal violent crimes against women and girls. As of November 30, the special court had not been established, and no police officers or judges had been prosecuted under the law.

The National Police’s Unit for the Protection of Minors and Morals is responsible for investigating cases of sexual violence and rape as well as those involving the trafficking of girls and women. The government-operated Humura Center in Gitega and integrated centers in Makamba, Muyinga, and Cibitoke Provinces, provided a full range of services, including legal, medical, and psychosocial services, to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, including the use of threats of physical violence or psychological pressure to obtain sexual favors. Punishment for conviction of sexual harassment may range from a fine to a prison sentence of one month to two years. The sentence for sexual harassment doubles if the victim is younger than 18. The government did not actively enforce the law. There were reports of sexual harassment but no data available on its frequency or extent and no evidence of arrests made under antisexual-harassment laws.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The government recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and they had access to the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Men often made the final decisions regarding family planning.

The government provided free prenatal and postpartum services. There were no restrictions on access to contraceptives; the contraceptive prevalence rate was 29 percent. Health clinics and NGOs freely disseminated information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Public Health. Faith-based clinics promoted the use of traditional family planning methods.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services including emergency contraception for survivors of sexual violence.

The 2016-2017 Demographic and Health Survey estimated the maternal mortality rate at 548 per 100,000 live births. According to the Ministry of Health, severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, complications during delivery, and unsafe abortions were the leading causes of maternal mortality. Other causes included effects from disease, such as malaria, or were related to chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Mothers and pregnant women suffered from lack of access to adequate medical care, particularly in rural areas.

World Health Statistics indicated the adolescent birth rate was 54 per 1,000 in 2019. Leading causes of high adolescent birth rates likely included high rates of poverty and widespread lack of reproductive health education. Ministry of Education policy requires pregnant girls to stop attending classes until one year after they give birth or if they provide medical records showing the pregnancy ended.

There were reports of social and cultural barriers related to menstruation and access to menstruation hygiene that impacted women and girls’ ability to participate equally in society, including limits on girls’ access to education. Human rights organizations reported that lack of knowledge led to misconceptions, taboos, and negative cultural and social norms around menstruation. As a result, women and girls experienced negative health consequences and higher rates of school absenteeism and poor educational outcomes. Additionally, menstruation stigma prevented women and girls from seeking treatment for menstruation-related disorders or pain. They also refrained from taking certain jobs or were not able to work because of menstruation stigma.

Discrimination: The law provides for equal status for women and men, including under family, labor, property, and nationality. Women faced legal, economic, and societal discrimination, including regarding inheritance and marital property laws. Traditional practices continued to control distribution of assets in favor of men and boys. A woman does not inherit her father’s land and was expected to work on and benefit from the land of her husband.

By law women must receive the same pay as men for the same work, but the government did not effectively enforce the law (see section 7.d.). Some employers suspended the salaries of women on maternity leave, and others refused medical coverage to married female employees. The government provided only limited resources to enforce labor laws in general and did not enforce antidiscrimination laws effectively.

The law requires unmarried couples who cohabit to legalize their relationships through church or state registrations. On September 28, the minister of interior requested citizens to report any local authorities in unmarried cohabitation so that they would be suspended from their government jobs.

Cabo Verde

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Conviction for rape of women and men is punishable by eight to 16 years’ imprisonment, and conviction for domestic violence is punishable by one to five years’ imprisonment. Spousal rape is implicitly covered by the law; penalties for conviction range from one to five years’ imprisonment. The law focuses on increasing protection of victims, strengthening penalties for convicted offenders, and raising awareness regarding gender-based violence. The law calls for establishing several care centers with financial and management autonomy, but implementation lagged due to inadequate staffing. Violence and discrimination against women remained significant problems. The National Police Annual Report for 2020 reported 1,667 cases of gender-based violence, a figure that represented 24 percent of all reported crimes against persons for that year. The Attorney General’s Office reported 1,832 cases of gender-based violence between August 2020 and July.

The National Police regularly accompanied victims of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence to the hospital and escorted them to their homes to collect their belongings. Police officers helped victims go to a location where they believed they would be safe. The Cabo Verdean Institute for Gender Equality and Equity ran five shelters on four islands, two on Santiago and one each on Fogo, Sao Vicente, and Boa Vista.

The government did not always enforce the law against rape and domestic violence effectively. NGO sources noted the lack of social and psychological care for perpetrators and victims alike.

Sexual Harassment: The penal code criminalizes sexual harassment. Penalties for conviction include up to one year in prison and a substantial monetary fine. Although authorities generally enforced the law, sexual harassment was common.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Survivors of sexual violence had access to contraception and sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception.

Discrimination: The law, including that related to family, religious, personal status and nationality, labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing business or property, provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, and the government enforced the law somewhat effectively.

Women suffered discrimination in equal pay for equal work (see also section 7.d.). Women often worked in informal jobs and lacked access to social security. When girls became pregnant while still in school, they nearly always dropped out and did not resume their education.

Cambodia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape and domestic violence were significant problems. The law, which does not specify the sex of a victim, criminalizes rape and “indecent assault.” Rape is punishable by five to 30 years’ imprisonment. Spousal rape is not specifically mentioned in the law, but the underlying conduct may be prosecuted as “rape,” “causing injury,” or “indecent assault.” Charges for rape were rare. The law criminalizes domestic violence and assigns penalties ranging from one to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Rape and domestic violence were likely underreported due to fear of reprisal, social stigma, discrimination, and distrust of police and the judiciary. Women comprised a small proportion of judicial officials, which likely contributed to underreporting of rape and domestic abuse. NGOs reported authorities inadequately enforced domestic violence law and avoided involvement in domestic disputes.

Rape and domestic violence sometimes led to death. Most observers believed neither authorities nor the public generally regarded domestic violence as a criminal offense.

In one example, Heng Sear, a wealthy businessman with connections to the government, was accused of sexual assault by university student and former beauty pageant contestant Mean Pich Rita who, after refusing Heng’s advances, was arrested in May for allegedly stealing his cell phone. She was quickly released after a public outcry, but police took no action against Heng.

The Ministries of Information and Women’s Affairs implemented a code of conduct for media reporting on violence against women, which bans publication of a survivor’s personal identifiable information, photographs of victims, depictions of a woman’s death or injury, depictions of nudity, and the use of certain offensive or disparaging words against women.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment, imposing penalties of six days’ to three months’ imprisonment and modest fines. Workplace sexual harassment was believed to be widespread.

As of September no legal action had been taken against Ouk Kosal, the former police chief of Kampong Thom Province. In July 2020 four female police officers submitted a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng reporting that Kosal sexually assaulted them. The letter stated they had reported the abuse on multiple occasions since 2018, but the case had not progressed. National Police chief Neth Savoeun stated that police did not take action because they “wanted to protect the dignity of the women.”

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Cultural barriers played a significant role in limiting women’s access to contraceptives. Unmarried, sexually active persons were often too shy or embarrassed to ask for contraceptives at health centers, clinics, and pharmacies.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services to survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception.

According to the country’s 2019 census, the maternal mortality rate was 141 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with 178 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. Major factors influencing high maternal mortality rates included shortages of adequate health facilities, medications, and skilled birth attendants.

Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for equal rights for women and men, including equal pay for equal work and equal status in marriage. The government did not effectively enforce the law. For the most part, women had equal property rights, the same legal right as men to initiate divorce proceedings, and equal access to education, but cultural traditions and greater parenting responsibilities than men limited the ability of women to reach senior positions in business and government or participate in the workforce.

The government expected women to dress and comport themselves according to “Khmer traditions.” In March a female police officer was forced to apologize for a Facebook post showing her nursing her baby while in uniform, leading to an outcry from civil society groups and some government officials, who came to the woman’s defense. On June 5, authorities arrested a woman selling lotions online for “ruining women’s honor” and accused her of using inappropriate and sexual words during an online promotion of her product.

Cameroon

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and provides penalties of between five and 10 years of imprisonment for convicted rapists. Police and courts rarely investigated or prosecuted rape cases, especially since survivors often did not report them. The law does not address spousal rape, nor does it specifically prohibit domestic violence, although assault is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment and fines.

During the year there were allegations that persons associated with the government raped women and children. Authorities investigated the allegations in some cases but denied the reports in other cases. On August 2, HRW reported that on June 8-9, members of the security forces raped a 53-year-old woman in the Northwest Region. Authorities did not order any investigation into the allegations (see also sections 1.a, 1.c., and 1.g.).

On April 29, Yaya Hamza Bamanga, an examining magistrate at the Koung-Khi High Court in Bandjoun, charged senior police inspector Asso’o Simon Jean with aggravated rape of a student (see also section 1.c.).

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law protects the bodily integrity of persons and prohibits genital mutilation for all women, including women ages 18 and older and girls younger than 18. Perpetrators are subject to a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years or imprisonment for life if the offender habitually carries out this practice for commercial purposes, or if the practice causes death. According to estimates by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), FGM/C prevalence among girls ages 15 to 19 between 2004 and 2018 was zero percent. On February 6, the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and the Family Marie Therese Obama met the Muslim community at the Yaounde Briquetterie neighborhood to raise awareness concerning FGM/C. Although the practice was gradually dying out as indicated by statistical data collected during the previous 10 years, the minister said she believed it continued in some areas. As in the previous year, anecdotal reports suggested children were subjected to FGM/C in isolated areas of the Far North, East, and Southwest Regions and among the Choa and Ejagham ethnic groups.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Widows were sometimes forcibly married to one of their deceased husband’s relatives to secure continued use of property left by the deceased husband, including the marital home. The government included provisions in the law outlawing the eviction of a spouse from the marital home by any person other than the other spouse. The practice of widow rites, by which widows were subject to certain trials such as bathing in public or movement restrictions, was also prevalent in some parts of the country, including in some rural communities of the West Region.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Offenders may be subject to imprisonment for periods of six months to one year and a fine. If the survivor is a minor, the penalty may be one to three years in prison. If the offender is the survivor’s teacher, the penalty may increase to three to five years in prison. Despite these legal provisions, sexual harassment was widespread and there were no reports during the year that anyone was fined or imprisoned for sexual harassment, in part due to sexual harassment survivors’ reluctance to file official complaints for fear of reprisal and or stigmatization.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The Ministry of Public Health offered counseling services to women during prenatal visits, promoting the concept of responsible parenthood and encouraging couples to use contraception to space the timing of their children. Many women, however, lacked the means to manage their reproductive health, and societal pressures continued to reinforce taboos on discussing reproductive health within certain communities. Women’s dependence on receiving their husbands’ consent continued to be a barrier in contraceptive decisions.

The government provided support to survivors of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence through the development of policies to protect survivors of gender-based violence, legal support to survivors via the judiciary network, general clinical care offered in health facilities, and collection of data through the District Health Information System and provision of situational analysis. Many of the prevention and basic support programs for survivors of gender-based violence were implemented by community-based organizations.

The Ministry of Health did not provide emergency contraception for survivors of gender-based violence. UNFPA provided a kit with emergency contraception as part of post-gender-based violence clinical care. These kits were offered in a few clinical sites that provided services to gender-based violence survivors.

UNFPA indicated that as of mid-September the contraceptive prevalence rate among all women ages 15 to 49 using any method was 27 percent, and 23 percent among married or in-union women ages 15 to 49. The information also indicated that contraceptive prevalence rate among all women ages 15 to 49 using a modern method was 22 percent and 17 percent among married or in-union women. Unmet need for family planning among all women ages 15 to 49 was 16 percent, while it was 23 percent of married or in-union women. Access to and availability of basic social services, including sexual and reproductive health care, however, were severely limited in conflict-affected regions, and many pregnant women did not have access to adequate maternal health care.

The 36 billion CFA francs ($65.5 million) Health Check project launched in 2015 in the Adamawa, North and Far North Regions to contribute to the reduction of maternal and child mortality came under review on March 4. Maternal and neonatal mortality decreased to 467 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, and 28 neonatal deaths per 100,000 infants. Health checks were sold to women at a cost of 6,000 CFA francs ($11), which granted women access to four prenatal consultations, echography, delivery including cesarian and postnatal consultations, and a 42-day stay after delivery in a health-care facility.

Discrimination: The constitution provides women and men the same legal status and rights. The government, however, often did not enforce the law. In practice, women did not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men. Although local government officials claimed women had access to land in their constituencies, the overall sociocultural practice of denying women the right to own land, especially through inheritance, was prevalent in most regions. The government did not implement any official discriminatory policy against women in such areas as divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing business or property, education, the judicial process, or housing. There were legal restrictions to women’s employment in some occupations and industries. Within the private sector, fewer women occupied positions of responsibility.

Canada

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, as sexual assault, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties for sexual assault carry prison sentences of up to 10 years, up to 14 years for sexual assault with a restricted or prohibited firearm, and between four years and life for aggravated sexual assault with a firearm or committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization. Most victims of sexual assault were women.

The law provides protections against domestic violence for both men and women, although most victims were women. Although the law does not define specific domestic violence offenses, assault, aggravated assault, intimidation, mischief, or sexual assault charges apply to acts of domestic violence. Persons convicted of assault receive up to five years in prison. Assaults involving weapons, threats, or injuries carry terms of up to 10 years. Aggravated assault or endangerment of life carry prison sentences of up to 14 years. The government generally enforced the law effectively. Police received training in interacting with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and agencies provided hotlines to report abuse.

The law was appropriately enforced, but a study prepared for federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of justice and released to the public in 2018 acknowledged challenges in reporting, investigating, and prosecuting sexual assault cases. Crimes of sexual assault were self-reported, and the majority of incidents were not reported to police. According to studies in 2014 by the federal department of justice, 83 percent of survivors of sexual assault did not report their assaults to police in that year. Of all sexual assaults reported to and substantiated by police from 2009 to 2014, 43 percent resulted in police laying a charge, 21 percent proceeded to court, and 12 percent resulted in a criminal conviction over the six-year period. Indigenous women and girls were disproportionately victims of sexual abuse. In 2014 indigenous women reported a sexual assault rate of 115 incidents per 1,000 population, significantly higher than the rate of 35 per 1,000 reported by nonindigenous women.

Approximately 1,180 indigenous women disappeared or were killed from 1980 to 2012, according to a 2014 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Indigenous advocates and a report issued in 2019 by the government-commissioned National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (NIMMIWG) stated the number was probably far higher, since many deaths had gone unreported. Indigenous women and girls made up an estimated 5 percent of the country’s women but represented 16 percent of the women killed, according to government statistics. Indigenous women and children were also at high risk of human trafficking.

The NIMMIWG concluded in 2019 that the government’s treatment of indigenous peoples amounted to “deliberate race, identity, and gender-based genocide,” that the harm continued, and that it required immediate remedy. On June 1, two years after the NIMMIWG report and one year later than the government had originally promised an official response, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) said it had “lost confidence” in the government and released its own NIMMIWG action plan without waiting for government action. NWAC is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that had originally spurred creation of the NIMMIWG. On June 3, the government released its National Action Plan in response to the NIMMIWG inquiry’s 231 recommendations. The government attributed the delay to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan committed C$2.2 billion ($1.7 billion) over five years and C$160.9 million ($127 million) for data collection, counseling and support services, culture, health, justice, safety, and security, and to combat human trafficking. It committed to no timeline for action.

The government’s Family Violence Initiative involved 15 federal departments, agencies, and crown corporations, including Status of Women Canada, Health Canada, and Justice Canada. These entities worked with civil society organizations to eliminate violence against women and to advance women’s human rights. The government continued a national strategy begun in 2017 to prevent and address gender-based violence, budgeting C$101 million ($77.8 million) over five years and C$20.7 million ($16.6 million) annually thereafter to create a center of excellence within Status of Women Canada for research, data collection, and programming, and to provide support for prevention, victim and family support, public education, justice, training, and programming. The 2018 federal budget allocated an additional C$86 million ($66 million) over five years, starting in 2018-19, and C$20 million ($15.4 million) per year thereafter, to expand the strategy with a focus on preventing teen-dating violence, bullying, and cyberbullying; health care for victims; investigative policing; police training; research; funding for rape crisis and sexual assault centers; and programs to prevent gender-based violence in postsecondary educational institutions. Provincial and municipal governments also sought to address violence against women, often in partnership with civil society.

In July preliminary findings from the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability’s (CFOJA) midyear report found 92 women and girls were killed between January and June, 79 of whom were killed by men. Indigenous women accounted for 12 percent of femicide victims, despite comprising 5 percent of the country’s population. The CFOJA reported 60 women and girls were victims of femicide in 2020. NGOs reported higher demand for services during the COVID-19 pandemic and attributed increases in domestic partner fatalities in part to the stress of societal lockdowns. The Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses reported an increase of domestic violence fatalities in Ontario of more than 84 percent, from 19 to 35 in the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2020.

On April 23, the Quebec government allocated C$223 million ($173.4 million) over five years to combat gender-based violence, including C$90 million ($70 million) for women’s shelters. The new money, combined with allocations in the provincial budget in March and previous commitments, totaled C$425 million ($330.5 million) over five years. According to the Quebec public security minister, as of October, 16 women had been killed by their male partners in Quebec, a significant increase from an average of 12 deaths in the province attributed to domestic violence in a calendar year.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C of women and girls and prosecutes the offense, including parents of minors, as aggravated assault with a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. FGM/C occurred on occasion, predominantly in diaspora communities. While internal government reports leaked to media asserted that FGM/C practitioners and victims often traveled to the country of the practitioners’ origin for the illegal procedure, officials also sought to prevent the entry of FGM/C practitioners into the country.

Sexual Harassment: The law offers protections from sexual harassment at the workplace but does not articulate a specific offense of “sexual harassment” outside of work; instead, it criminalizes harassment (defined as stalking), punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and sexual assault, with penalties ranging from 10 years for nonaggravated sexual assault to life imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault. Federal, provincial, and territorial human rights commissions have responsibility for investigating and resolving harassment complaints. Employers, companies, unions, educational facilities, professional bodies, and other institutions had internal policies against sexual harassment, and federal and provincial governments provided public education and guidance.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of the government. A class action suit filed in 2017 against the province of Saskatchewan by at least 60 indigenous women who claimed physicians in the provincial health system subjected them to coerced sterilization or sterilization without proper or informed consent between 1972 and 2017 remained in progress as of November.

No significant legal, social, or cultural barriers or government policies adversely affected access to contraception; cost was cited as the most important barrier to contraception access in the country, particularly for young and low-income women and indigenous women in northern or remote communities where menstrual products and other imported consumer goods cost significantly more than in southern and urban communities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence in hospitals and through dedicated sexual assault care centers, including emergency contraception as part of clinical management of rape.

Women had access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Skilled health attendants were available during pregnancy and childbirth and were publicly funded; however, women in rural, remote, and Arctic areas had more difficulty accessing care. Although the country’s maternal mortality rate in 2018 was low at 8.5 per 100,000 live births, a 2016 medical study reported indigenous women had a two times higher risk of maternal mortality than the national average and a higher risk of adverse outcomes, including stillbirth, perinatal death, low-birth weight infants, prematurity, and infant deaths. The country’s birth rate among females 15 to 19 years of age was 6.3 per 1,000 in 2019, the latest available figure, and varied widely by province. In Ontario, the most populous province that includes multiple urban centers, the birth rate was 4.3 per 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19. In the rural northern territory of Nunavut – 86 percent of the population of which was indigenous – the rate was 97.3 per 1,000. The country’s national statistical agency cited low income, overcrowded or inadequate housing, lack of a high school diploma, and lack of access to sexual health education and contraception as social determinants of higher birth rates among indigenous adolescents.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The government enforced these rights effectively.

In May the government released 2020 data regarding female representation and diversity on the corporate boards of approximately 669 publicly traded companies in the country required by law to disclose annual diversity data. Women held 25 percent of all senior management positions in the identified companies and 50 percent had at least one woman on their board of directors. Fourteen percent had set targets for the representation of women on their boards and 32 percent had written policies relating to the identification and nomination of women for board seats. Seven provinces and two territories require private-sector companies to report annually on their efforts to increase the number of women appointed to executive corporate boards. The government’s statistical agency reported that hourly wages for women were, on average, lower than for men but that the wage gap had narrowed to 87 cents for women for every dollar earned by men in 2018 (latest available figures), except at the top of corporate structures. The agency attributed the change to women’s higher rates of public-sector work, unionization, and higher educational attainment and cited factors such as differences in the industries where men and women work, and the higher likelihood for women to work part-time, for the continuing gap.

An April 20 ruling by Quebec’s Superior Court upheld most of a provincial law that bans specific public employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols at work. The Superior Court judge acknowledged the law violated the rights of Muslim women and had “cruel” and “dehumanizing” consequences for those who wore religious symbols but concluded it did not violate the country’s constitution. The province had shielded the law by invoking a constitutional override provision that allows a province to suspend protected rights for a period of five years. The judge, however, struck down the application of the law for two worker categories: members of the provincial National Assembly and those working for Anglophone school boards. Under the law judges, lawyers, police officers, and teachers in the majority Francophone public school system continued to be prohibited from wearing visible religious symbols at work. The two-tiered ruling was seen by minority rights groups as a major setback that they said would perpetuate violation of religious freedom and permit the continuation of legal discrimination in the province – especially against Muslim women. The judge remarked in his ruling that persons who “fall into this category can no longer seek out new jobs in the public service without compromising their beliefs.”

In June the Quebec government appealed the Superior Court ruling, which remained pending as of November. The government’s appeal paused the exemption from the law for Anglophone school boards; the English Montreal School Board asked the Quebec Court of Appeal for a temporary exemption to allow them to hire staff before the appeal was decided. A judicial decision on the temporary exemption also remained pending as of November. Separately, Muslim and civil rights organizations in Quebec in May said they would appeal the Superior Court ruling. Their appeal remained pending as of November.

First Nations women living on reservations (where land is held communally) have matrimonial property rights. First Nations may choose to follow federal law or may enact their own rules related to matrimonial real property rights and interests that respect their customs.

China (Includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet)

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women is illegal and carries a sentence that ranges from three years in prison to death. The law does not safeguard same-sex couples or survivors of marital rape. A separate law on sexual assault includes male victims but has a lesser maximum penalty of five years in prison. Of the reported cases, most allegations of rape were closed through private settlement rather than prosecution. Some persons convicted of rape were executed.

Domestic violence remained a significant problem. Some scholars said victims were encouraged to attempt to resolve domestic violence through mediation. Societal sentiment that domestic violence was a personal, private matter contributed to underreporting and inaction by authorities when women faced violence at home. The law defines domestic violence as a civil, rather than a criminal, offense. The web publication Sixth Tone reported in 2019 that 25 percent of families had experienced domestic violence.

The government supported shelters for survivors of domestic violence, and some courts provided protections to survivors, including through court protective orders prohibiting a perpetrator of domestic violence from coming near to a survivor. Nonetheless, official assistance did not always reach survivors, and public security forces often ignored domestic violence. Legal aid institutions working to provide counseling and defense to survivors of domestic violence were often pressured to suspend public activities and cease all forms of policy advocacy, an area that was reserved only for government-sponsored organizations.

According to women’s rights activists, a recurring problem in the prosecution of domestic violence cases was a failure by authorities to collect evidence, including photographs, hospital records, police records, or children’s testimony. Witnesses seldom testified in court.

On November 2, professional tennis player Peng Shuai in a since-deleted post on Weibo accused former Politburo Standing Committee member and vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her in 2018. Peng said she and Zhang previously had an extramarital relationship and that she went to Zhang’s house “about three years ago” at his invitation to play tennis with him and his wife, when he sexually assaulted her. International media said this was the first such public accusation against a senior CCP official. Peng disappeared from public view following her post, and her social media accounts were blocked. Her disappearance sparked an international outcry, and a subsequent series of public sightings were criticized as staged propaganda intended to defuse international criticism.

Courts’ recognition of domestic violence improved, making spousal abuse a mitigating factor in crimes committed in self-defense.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment against women. The law defines behaviors included in the definition of harassment, eliminates the statute of limitations of minors seeking to sue on sexual harassment grounds, and requires employers to make affirmative efforts to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace. It remained difficult for victims to file a sexual harassment complaint and for judges to reach a ruling on such cases. Human Rights Watch cited one statistic showing nearly 40 percent of women said they experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Many women, however, remained unwilling to report incidents of sexual harassment, believing the justice system was ineffectual, according to official media. Several prominent media reports of sexual harassment were widely shared on social media, helping to raise awareness of the problem, particularly in the workplace.

In August a female employee of Hangzhou-based Alibaba wrote she had been sexually assaulted by her manager and a client and that Alibaba had not initially taken the matter seriously. Alibaba subsequently fired the accused manager, and two other senior employees resigned for not properly handling the allegations. The criminal case against the accused manager was ultimately dropped by prosecutors who said the “forcible indecency” committed by the man was not a crime.

On September 14, the Haidian District Court in Beijing ruled against plaintiff Zhou Xiaoxuan (also known as Xianzi) in a high-profile sexual harassment case, stating there was insufficient evidence to support her claims that China Central Television personality Zhu Jun had groped and forcibly kissed her in 2014 when she was an intern working for him.

The law allows victims to file a sexual harassment complaint with their employer, authorities, or both. Employers who failed to take effective measures to prevent sexual harassment could be fined.

Some women’s NGOs that sought to increase public awareness of sexual harassment reported harassment by public security and faced challenges implementing their programs.

Reproductive Rights: Through law and policy the CCP and government limit the rights of parents to choose the number of children they have. The law restricts most married couples to three children (increased from two in May) and allows couples to apply for permission to have a fourth child if they meet local and provincial requirements. In August the NPC formally passed the law raising the number of children permitted, including several provisions aimed at boosting the birth rate and “reducing the burden” of raising children. These provisions included abolishing the “social maintenance fee” that was a fine for having children beyond the previous limit, encouraging local governments to offer parental leave, and increasing women’s employment rights.

Enforcement of population control policy relied on social pressure, education, propaganda, and economic penalties, as well as on measures such as mandatory pregnancy examinations, contraception and, less frequently, forced sterilizations and, in some provinces, coerced abortions. Penalties for exceeding the permitted number of children were not enforced uniformly and varied by province. The law as implemented requires each woman with an unauthorized pregnancy to abort or to pay a social compensation fee, which can reach 10 times a person’s annual disposable income. Those with the financial means often paid the fee to ensure their children born in violation of the birth restrictions would have access to a wide array of government-provided social services and rights. Some avoided the fee by hiding such children with friends or relatives. The law only mentions the rights of married couples, which means unmarried women are not authorized to have children. They consequently have social compensation fees imposed on them if they give birth “outside of the policy,” and they could be subject to the denial of legal documents such as birth documents and the hukou residence permit, although local governments rarely enforced these regulations.

While authorities have liberalized population control measures for members of the Han majority since 2016, birth control policies directed toward Uyghurs became more stringent. Ethnic and religious minority women were often subject to coercive population control measures. Government targeting of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang with intensified coercive family-planning measures resulted in plummeting birth rates since 2018. Most Xinjiang prefectures reported large increases in sterilizations and implantation of intrauterine devices (IUD), with Hotan Prefecture alone more than doubling its female sterilization numbers from 2017 to 2018. There were widespread reports of coercive population control measures – including forced abortions, forced sterilizations, involuntary IUD insertions, and pregnancy checks – occurring at detention centers in the region and targeting minority groups, primarily Uyghurs and ethnic Kazaks. Parents judged to have exceeded the government limit on the number of children (three or more) risked being sent to detention centers unless they paid exorbitant fines. In a January post later removed by Twitter, the PRC Embassy in the United States claimed, “Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines. They are more confident and independent.”

Since national family planning law mentions only the rights of married couples, local implementation was inconsistent, and unmarried persons were required to pay for contraception.

Sexual and reproductive health services including emergency contraception were available for survivors of sexual violence at public hospitals.

Discrimination: The constitution states “women enjoy equal rights with men in all spheres of life.” The law provides for equality in ownership of property, inheritance rights, access to education, and equal pay for equal work. Nonetheless, women reported that discrimination, unfair dismissal, demotion, and wage discrepancies were significant problems.

On average women earned 35 percent less than men who did similar work. This wage gap was greater in rural areas. Women were underrepresented in leadership positions, despite their high rate of participation in the labor force.

Authorities often did not enforce laws protecting the rights of women. According to legal experts, it was difficult to litigate sex discrimination suits because of vague legal definitions. Some observers noted the agencies tasked with protecting women’s rights tended to focus on maternity-related benefits and wrongful termination due to pregnancy or maternity leave rather than on sex discrimination, violence against women, or sexual harassment.

Women’s rights advocates indicated that in rural areas women often forfeited land and property rights to their husbands in divorce proceedings. The civil code includes a provision for a 30-day “cooling off” period in cases of uncontested divorce; some citizens expressed concern this leaves those seeking escape from domestic violence susceptible to further abuse. Rural contract law and laws protecting women’s rights stipulate women enjoy equal rights in cases of land management, but experts asserted this was rarely the case due to the complexity of the law and difficulties in its implementation.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: The most recent information from the State Council Information Office stated the boy-girl birth ratio had dropped from 113.5 in 2015 to 110.1 boys per 100 girls in 2019.

Nonmedical fetal sex diagnosis and aborting a pregnancy based on gender selection are illegal.  Private and unregistered clinics, however, provided these services. Provincial health commissions made efforts to crack down on sex-selective abortions.

Comoros

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape regardless of age or gender is illegal and punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment or up to 15 years if the survivor is younger than age 15. The law does not specifically address spousal rape, but being married to a survivor does not exonerate the perpetrator. Authorities prosecuted perpetrators if survivors filed charges; otherwise, authorities rarely enforced the law. There were reports families or village elders settled many allegations of sexual violence informally through traditional means and without recourse to the formal court system. According to an international organization, approximately 80 percent of prisoners were serving time for rape or sexual assault.

The law treats domestic violence as an aggravating circumstance, including crimes committed by one domestic partner against an existing or former partner. Penalties include prison sentences up to five years and fines. Courts rarely sentenced or fined perpetrators. No reliable data were available on the extent of the problem. Survivors rarely filed official complaints. Although officials acted (usually the arrest of the spouse) when a case was reported, domestic violence cases rarely entered the court system.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by fines and imprisonment. It is defined in the law as any verbal, nonverbal, or bodily behavior of a sexual nature that has the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or humiliating work environment for a person. Although rarely reported due to societal pressure, such harassment was nevertheless a common problem, and authorities did not effectively enforce the law.

On March 25, Ministry of Foreign Affairs intern Hamada Azaima accused Advisor to the Minister Abdallah Mirghane of sexual harassment. On March 28, gendarmes interviewed Mirghane. Although not charged with any crime, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs fired him.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Barriers that impeded access to sexual and reproductive health services included reduced access to and use of contraception due to insufficient awareness of their utility, the influence of religious and cultural beliefs, the noninvolvement of men in reproductive health programs, and low education levels. Other barriers included low levels of awareness of available resources, impacting skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services, including counseling and legal and medical support, for survivors of sexual violence through government-funded “listening centers” on all three islands. Emergency contraception was available as part of the clinical management of rape cases.

According to the general population and housing census published in October 2020, the maternal mortality rate was 195 deaths per 100,000 live births. The UN Fund for Population Activities office in the country put the number at 72 deaths per 100,000 live births. Major factors in the maternal mortality rate included a lack of access to skilled obstetric care and modern medical facilities, low levels of awareness concerning available resources, and difficulty traveling to available facilities. According to National Health Policy statistics, the use of modern contraceptive methods was higher in urban areas (21 percent) than in rural areas (11 percent). The island of Anjouan had the highest prevalence (15 percent) followed by Grande Comore (14 percent) and Moheli (9 percent).

In rural areas lack of access to menstrual health care and hygiene, including schools that lacked indoor plumbing, negatively affected girls’ education.

Discrimination: The law provides for equality of persons without regard to gender, creed, belief, origin, race, or religion, and authorities generally enforced the law effectively. Nevertheless, inheritance and property rights practices favored women. Local cultures are traditionally matrilineal, and all inheritable property was in the legal possession of women. Societal discrimination against women was most apparent in rural areas, where women were mostly limited to farming and child-rearing duties, with fewer opportunities for education and wage employment. While men can transmit citizenship to their wives, the law does not permit women to transmit citizenship to their husbands.

Crimea

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Domestic violence remained a serious problem in occupied Crimea; however, occupation authorities’ restrictions on human rights organizations made it difficult to assess its prevalence.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of occupation authorities.

Women in Crimea accessed reproductive health care through services funded by the Russian occupation authorities, private insurance, and NGO programs; however, no Ukrainian or international monitors had access to Crimea, making it difficult to assess the state of reproductive health care there.

Croatia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes the rape of women or men, including spousal rape and domestic violence. The law was in most cases enforced. Sentences range from fines to jail, depending on the crime’s severity. Rape, including spousal rape, is punishable by a maximum of 15 years’ imprisonment. Conviction for domestic violence is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. The law provides for stricter penalties for violence among closely related family members and violence against women. Sexual intercourse without consent is classified as rape, punishable with three to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law provides sanctions (fines and up to 90 days’ imprisonment) for misdemeanor domestic violence. The ombudsperson’s 2020 report noted during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a significant increase in domestic violence of a criminal nature, and women represented the vast majority of domestic violence survivors. The report stated that during the last two years there was a 50 percent increase in the total number of women killed and the number of women killed by intimate partners. In addition to domestic violence, the ombudsperson stated survivors of domestic violence still did not have adequate legal protection.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment of women and men. The maximum punishment for sexual harassment is two years’ imprisonment. The ombudsperson for gender equality reported a general lack of effective and dissuasive sanctioning of perpetrators, and judicial practice was generally not gender sensitive, due in part to insufficient education on international standards.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities, had the ability to provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health, including for sterilization. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men regarding family, employment, labor, religion, inheritance, personal status and nationality laws, property, access to credit, owning or managing businesses or property, and voting. The law requires equal pay for equal work. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Women experienced discrimination in employment and occupation. The ombudsperson for gender equality in 2020 (the most recent data available) worked on 515 discrimination cases, a 2 percent increase compared with 2019. The largest number of complaints was related to the area of exercising labor rights (25 percent), followed by the area of social security, including social welfare, pension, and health insurance (23 percent) and administration (14 percent).

Cyprus

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, with a maximum sentence of life in prison. The law also criminalizes domestic violence, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The government generally enforced the law effectively, although many cases continued to go unreported. From January to September, police investigated 36 cases of rape and eight cases of sexual assault.

The law establishes clear mechanisms for reporting and prosecuting family violence. A court can issue a same-day restraining order against suspected or convicted domestic violence offenders. The number of reported cases of domestic violence increased sharply, as it did in 2020. Police claimed the increase was due to more effective domestic violence policies, citing the establishment of specialized domestic violence units in all police divisions, more intensive police training, and increased public awareness. In the first eight months of the year, 2,179 cases of domestic violence were reported to police, 300 more than in 2020 and significantly higher than in 2019 when 519 cases were reported to police. As of December police had completed investigations for 780 of the cases and filed 611 cases in court. The NGO Association for the Prevention and Handling of Violence in the Family (SPAVO) attributed the significant increase in domestic abuse cases, in part, to the government-imposed COVID-19 mitigation lockdowns. Of the reported survivors in 2020, 76 percent were women. SPAVO received a total of 2,854 messages concerning domestic violence cases on its hotline, live chat, and SMS text service, compared to 2,147 messages in 2020. As in previous years, SPAVO stated domestic violence survivors often faced significant family and social pressure not to report abuse and to withdraw complaints filed with police.

Media outlets and NGOs criticized the Social Welfare Services for providing insufficient support to survivors of domestic violence. In one example a man in Ergates village stabbed to death his wife and his son. A second son witnessed the killings and escaped. At the time of the killing, the family had been under the care of the Social Welfare Services due to a history of psychological and financial problems. According to media reports, relatives and neighbors had reported frequent incidents of violence against the woman and her children. Police and the Social Welfare Service denied reports that they received any official complaints from the victims. The man’s trial was pending at year’s end.

There were three shelters for survivors of domestic violence, each funded primarily by the government and operated by SPAVO, which provided shelter to a total of 661 women and children during the year. In December 2020 the government opened the “Women’s Home,” a one-stop facility in Nicosia where female survivors of violence and sexual assault and their children are provided with medical, legal, and psychological services while also having the opportunity to provide testimony to police. The Women’s Home served 404 female victims of violence during the year. It was funded by the government and operated by SPAVO.

Police conducted detailed educational programs for officers on the proper handling of domestic violence, including training focused on child abuse. NGOs reported, however, that some police officers continued to dismiss claims of domestic abuse by foreign women and children.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace with a maximum penalty of six months in prison, a monetary fine, or both. A code of conduct outlines the prevention and handling of sexual harassment and harassment in the public service. NGOs and foreign domestic worker associations reported that authorities did not adequately investigate sexual harassment complaints submitted by foreign domestic workers.

Unlike in previous years when complaints were rare, several women reported sexual harassment to police following a high-profile case in Greece involving a female athlete, widely covered in local media. From January to September, police opened investigations into seven sexual harassment complaints and filed five cases in court. Two of the most prominent cases covered by media outlets involved a senior member of the Church of Cyprus, former metropolitan of Kitium, Chrysostomos, who was accused of rape, and a high-profile politician, who was facing charges of sexual assault. In the Chrysostomos case, the Larnaca-Famagusta Criminal Court ruled on October 22 that the complainant’s testimony was inconsistent, contradictory, and untruthful and cleared the former metropolitan of charges.

NGOs reported cases of sexual harassment of foreign female domestic workers remained a widespread but underreported problem. NGOs reported permissive social attitudes, fear of reprisals, and lack of family support for victims discouraged victims from reporting instances of sexual harassment. From January through October, the Department of Labor reported receiving three sexual harassment complaints, including one from a foreign domestic worker and one from an asylum seeker. The complaints were under investigation. The ombudsman continued to receive and examine complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace. In 2019 the country’s major labor unions – the Confederation of Cypriot Workers and the Pancyprian Labor Federation – agreed with the Employers and Industrialists Federation on a code of conduct for how to treat cases of harassment and sexual harassment at the workplace. The ombudsman’s office and the Academy of Public Administration delivered online training and seminars on sexual harassment and gender mainstreaming for the public sector during the year.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. An NGO reported that some doctors in the private and public sectors required married women to have their husband’s consent in order to proceed with sterilization, although the law does not require such consent.

The government funded an NGO that provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The government generally enforced the law, but women experienced discrimination in employment and pay in the private sector. Although reporting by Eurostat showed pay parity between the genders in the public sector, NGOs reported that vertical and occupational segregation remained a challenge.

Czech Republic

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including of women and men, including spousal rape, as well as domestic or intimate partner violence, and provides for a penalty of two to 10 years in prison for violations, with longer sentences in aggravated circumstances.

A survey published in October found that 9 percent of women over the age of 18 and 2 percent of men reported they had been raped, and that 54 percent of women reported having encountered some form of sexual violence or harassment.

The government did not consistently enforce the law effectively and NGOs called for revising the definition of the crime of rape to focus on the victim’s lack of consent and not on the evidence of violence. Women’s advocates pointed out that rape survivors who do not resist rape out of fear for their life or safety often lack evidence that both the investigators and the courts typically required (e.g., bruises, bleeding, and other injuries).

Observers reported prosecutors and judges in rape cases sometimes lacked knowledge on the subject and cited a shortage of experienced judicial experts. Penalties were often too low, and only half of all sentences included prison time.

In June parliament amended the law on the protection of victims of crimes to include survivors of rape and domestic violence among “particularly vulnerable victims” and thereby entitle them to benefits, such as free legal representation in courts, shared burden of proof, and compensation, and shield them from “secondary or tertiary victimization.” Perpetrators of spousal rape, including brutal attacks, were frequently given inadequate sentences, including probation. Observers acknowledged that conditional sentences were more often correctly combined with restraining orders that effectively protected victims from perpetrators.

NGOs cited continued lack of funding as a constraint on their ability not only to lobby for equal opportunities for women and men, but also to provide other services to sexually abused women or survivors of domestic violence.  NGOs highlighted that, under the government-funded program providing free legal assistance to survivors, NGOs and persons providing pro bono assistance to survivors receive a much lower hourly fee than court-appointed attorneys.

Domestic violence is punishable by up to four years in prison, with longer sentences in aggravated circumstances. Police have the authority to remove violent abusers from their homes for 10 days. The law states a removal order can remain in effect for a total of up to six months, including extensions. The Ministry of Interior reported police removed 1,170 offenders from their homes in 2020, a small drop in removals despite the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. The government supported a widely used hotline for gender-based violence crimes, including domestic violence.

The government supported a widely used hotline for gender-based violence crimes, including domestic violence.

In February Charles University and the Sociological Institute conducted research into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence. The research showed that the pandemic contributed to the frequency and intensity of domestic violence and raised the threshold for survivors reporting or seeking help from institutions. The research also showed that the most frequent types of violence were psychological forms difficult to prove. Sexual violence was present in fewer than half of the cases. NGOs reported that demand for support services increased significantly during the pandemic, in some cases by 50 percent compared to the same period in previous years, although intervention centers, police, and social departments for child protections did not record an increase in official cases.

In November 2020 IKEA’s Czech subsidiary, in cooperation with several nonprofit organizations, launched a two-year campaign to counter domestic violence. The company contributed 3.8 million crowns ($174,000) to provide domestic abuse survivors with necessary assistance and accommodation.

Sexual Harassment: The antidiscrimination law prohibits sexual harassment and treats it as a form of direct discrimination. If convicted, penalties may include fines, dismissal from work, and up to eight years in prison. Police often delayed investigations until the perpetrator committed serious crimes, such as sexual coercion, rape, or other forms of physical assault.

Survey results published in October found that 54 percent of all adult women experienced some form of sexual violence or harassment. Thirty-three percent of women reported verbal harassment, 31 percent reported unwanted or unconsented touching, 17 percent reported acts involving unwanted photographs or videos, and 12 percent reported unwanted or unconsented kissing.

Offenders convicted of stalking may receive sentences of up to three years in prison.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Transgender individuals are required to be sterilized to obtain gender altering surgery or receive legal gender recognition (see Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, below).

The government does not allow women access to artificial insemination if using the cells of an anonymous donor without the written consent of their partner, and medical providers can only use artificial insemination for opposite-sex couples. Unmarried persons, persons who do not have consent from a partner, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons are ineligible to receive treatment.

Some observers reported that Roma faced obstructions in access to health care in general, including to reproductive health care.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Women must cover the costs of emergency contraception themselves.

In July, after a decade of advocacy, the government passed legislation compensating women who were involuntarily sterilized between 1966 and 2012. Eligible women are entitled to compensation of 300,000 crowns ($14,000). According to some estimates, more than 1,000 women, primarily Romani, were sterilized without their knowledge or full and informed consent during that period.

Discrimination: The law grants men and women the same legal status and rights, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws.Women  sometimes experienced employment and wage discrimination.

In March the government approved the Strategy for Equality of Women and Men 2021-2030. Experts noted the document is more comprehensive than the previous 2014 strategy and applauded the scope and specificity in addressing electoral representation, pay gaps, availability of childcare, and security, among other issues. The government acknowledges that the country continues to significantly lag other EU member states in gender equality. Observers cited continued obstacles to achieving gender equality, including women having most household and childcare responsibilities, and professional and societal stereotypes.

There were NGO reports that allegations of hate crime, including hate speech, targeted at women based on gender are not taken seriously or handled adequately by the police and the courts. The director of a leading NGO focusing on hate crimes was unable to obtain relief in court, including the Constitutional Court, after she received more than 100 emails containing sexually explicit content and death threats from a man. The Constitutional Court reasoned that the director was a public figure and should expect and ignore such communications.

In March the Supreme Administrative Court upheld a fine for distributing an advertisement depicting an almost naked female body unrelated to the services offered by the company. The court stated that by distributing a leaflet promoting a business and completely unrelated photographs of the almost naked female body, the company discriminated against the female sex and diminished human dignity. Observers noted this decision sets an important precedent for gender discrimination efforts.

Denmark

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape against women and men (the statute is gender neutral), including spousal rape and domestic violence. Rape is not defined by a lack of consent, but rather by whether physical violence, threat, or coercion is involved or if the victim is found to have been unable to resist. Penalties for rape include imprisonment for up to 12 years for aggravated circumstances and up to six years for domestic violence. The government effectively prosecuted persons accused of rape.

Gender-based violence rates have increased due to COVID-19. The number of women enrolled in domestic violence shelters throughout the country in 2020 increased 3 percent compared with 2019. In January a new consent law went into effect. The law, which strengthened the country’s rape laws, criminalized sex without the explicit consent of all parties.

The police received 1,825 reports of rape or attempted rape in 2020.

Faroese law criminalizes rape with penalties of up to 12 years’ imprisonment. The law considers nonconsensual sex with a victim in a “helpless state” to be sexual abuse rather than rape. In certain instances it also reduces the penalty for rape and sexual violence within marriage.

Greenlandic law criminalizes rape. The law does not provide a minimum sentencing for persons convicted of rape but does cap sentencing at 10 years. The law is applied equally regardless of the marital relationship of the offender and the victim. The law provides that sentencing be based on the severity of the case as well as an individual evaluation of the offender. Sentencing was typically between 12 and 18 months.

In the country’s UPR, two treaty bodies of the UNHRC expressed concern that numerous women had experienced violence or had been exposed to threats thereof, and that the rates of prosecution and conviction remained low. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was concerned regarding the high incidence of sexual violence, including rape; the lack of reliable associated statistical data; the inadequacy of legal provisions relating to rape; and the very low rate of prosecution of sexual violence.

The government and NGOs operated 24-hour hotlines, counseling centers, and shelters for female survivors of violence throughout the country, including in Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Under the law a man who is the survivor of domestic violence is not afforded the same opportunities for help as a woman. While the law provides women the right to be admitted to a women’s crisis center, men can only be admitted to shelters or male centers as “functional homeless.” These centers did not necessarily have expertise in caring for survivors of violence because they house a wider target group, such as the homeless and those suffering from drug or alcohol addictions. In Greenland there were 748 sexual crimes reported in 2020, a 33.8 percent increase from the 559 reported in 2019.

The law provides for 10 hours of taxpayer-funded psychological help for women, but not for men, in shelters. The government may extend this treatment to men in men’s shelters on trial basis in 2022-23.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment and provides that authorities may order a perpetrator or an employer who allowed or failed to prevent an incident of harassment to pay monetary compensation to victims. The law considers sexual harassment an unsafe working condition and gives labor unions or the Equal Treatment Board the responsibility to resolve it. The government enforced the law effectively.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, labor, religious, personal status and nationality, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning and managing businesses and property laws. Little discrimination was reported in employment, ownership and management of businesses, or access to credit, education, or housing.

Estonia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and physical abuse, including domestic violence. The law was effectively enforced. The penalty for rape, including spousal rape, is imprisonment for up to 15 years. According to the NGO Sexual Health Union, 13 percent of women had suffered sexual violence, including rape.

According to NGOs and shelter managers, violence against women, including domestic violence, was a problem. During the first six months of the year, physical abuse crimes dropped 5 percent, including domestic violence cases. Women constituted more than 80 percent of the victims of domestic violence registered by police. Police registered 3 percent fewer reports of domestic violence in 2020 than in the previous year. Of domestic violence crimes, 85 percent were physical abuse cases, 11 percent were threatening cases, 3 percent were sexual offenses, and less than 1 percent were murders or attempted murders.

NGOs, local governments, and others could seek assistance for survivors from the national government. There is a network of shelters for women and women with children who were victims of gender-based violence as well as hotlines for domestic violence and child abuse. There are four treatment centers for survivors of sexual violence. Police officers, border guards, and social workers received training related to domestic and gender violence from NGOs and the Ministries of Social Affairs, Interior, and Justice.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but there were reports of such harassment in the workplace and on public transport. By law, sexual harassment complaints may be resolved in court. The penalty for sexual harassment is a fine or detention for up to 30 days. In 2020 the number of sexual harassment cases did not materially change compared with the previous year; 97 percent of the victims in reported cases of sexual harassment were women. The number of registered stalking incidents in 2020 grew 11 percent compared to the previous year; 88 percent of reported stalking victims were women while 92 percent of alleged perpetrators were men.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The government generally enforced such laws. There were reports of discrimination in employment and occupation and unequal treatment due to gender, age, disability, and sexual preference (see section 7.d.).

Fiji

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law recognizes rape, including spousal rape, as a crime and provides for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. The law recognizes spousal rape as a specific offense. Rape (including spousal rape), domestic abuse, incest, and sexual harassment were significant problems. From January to March, the Fiji Women’s Crisis Center recorded 486 domestic violence cases. This was an increase over previous years, attributed to a new national toll-free help line by which victims found it easier to report abuse and to COVID-19 movement restrictions that confined victims with their abusers. The center reported one woman died in a domestic violence incident as of November.

The law defines domestic violence as a specific offense. Police practice a “no-drop” policy, whereby they are required to pursue investigations of domestic violence cases even if a victim later withdraws the accusation. Nonetheless, women’s organizations reported police did not consistently follow this policy. Courts also dismissed some cases of domestic abuse and incest or gave perpetrators light sentences. Traditional and religious practices of reconciliation between aggrieved parties in both indigenous and Indo-Fijian communities were sometimes utilized to mitigate sentences for domestic violence. In some cases, authorities released offenders without a conviction on condition they maintained good behavior.

The NGOs Fiji Women’s Crisis Center and Pacific Women supported a wide range of educational, social support, and counseling measures for survivors of gender-based violence and advocated for legal reforms to strengthen protections for women and girls.

NGOs reported a “concerning increase” in gender-based violence since the pandemic began in 2020. In May alone, domestic violence cases were 60 percent higher than in May 2020. Several of the cases were classified as severe forms of domestic violence, such as the attack on a 58-year-old woman whose husband cut off her arm with a machete at the fast-food restaurant where she worked. Civil society and NGOs maintained that increased depression among women, especially those unable to access mental health-care treatment during lockdowns, combined with life in patriarchal, stressed, and locked-down households, presented a potent combination for harm for women and girls.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and the government also used criminal law against “indecent assaults on females,” which prohibits offending the modesty of women, to prosecute sexual harassment cases. Sexual harassment was a significant problem.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provided family planning services, and women had access to contraceptives free of charge at public hospitals and clinics, and for a nominal fee if prescribed by a private physician. Nevertheless, NGOs reported some women faced societal and family pressure against obtaining contraceptives. The government provided sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, for sexual violence survivors.

Discrimination: Women have full rights of inheritance and property ownership by law, but local authorities often excluded them from the decision-making process on disposition of indigenous communal land, which constituted more than 80 percent of all land. Women have the right to a share in the distribution of indigenous land-lease proceeds, but authorities seldom recognized this right. Women have the same rights and status as men under family law and in the judicial system. Nonetheless, women and children had difficulty obtaining protection orders, and police enforcement of them, in domestic violence cases.

Although the law prohibits gender-based discrimination and requires equal pay for equal work, employers generally paid women less than men for similar work.

Finland

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of both women and men, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. Rape is punishable by up to six years’ imprisonment. If the offender used violence, the offense is considered aggravated, and the penalty may be up to 10 years. All sexual offenses against adults, except sexual harassment, are subject to public prosecution. Sexual offenses against a defenseless person (such as because of unconsciousness, intoxication, or a disability) are considered as severe as rape.

Authorities may prosecute domestic abuse under various criminal laws, including as rape, assault and battery, harassment, and disturbing the peace. The penalty for physical domestic violence ranges from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The legal definition of rape emphasizes intentional violence, which civil society organizations alleged leads courts to find assailants not guilty in cases where coercion was less explicit. In addition police must inquire about a party’s willingness to participate in reconciliation, which is usually engaged in before the case proceeds to the prosecutor. Reconciliation may be grounds for the prosecutor not to press charges, but even reconciliation where a mutual agreement has been reached does not prevent the prosecutor from pressing charges.

Gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, continued to be a problem. The Finnish branch of Amnesty International estimated that more than 100,000 persons experienced violence annually in the country and that 76 percent of the victims were women. According to Amnesty International, only 10 percent of these incidents were reported to authorities and most of those reported did not lead to prosecution. While police are obligated to investigate domestic violence cases, many of the cases are referred to a mediator after which police do not closely track the cases. According to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), 36.3 percent of intimate partner violence cases were directed to mediation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of intimate-partner violence reported to police increased by 6 percent, and utilization of the online services of the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters grew by 11 percent over the same period. A government-funded provider of telephone support services for victims of violence against women and domestic violence also reported a 31 percent increase in individuals seeking assistance in 2020. From January through July, 160 cases of rape were reported to police or border guards, a 24 percent increase over the same period in 2020. The ombudsman for equality at the Ministry of Justice highlighted problems with access to domestic violence shelters in remote rural areas.

The government funded shelters specifically for victims of domestic violence. There were 29 shelters for victims of domestic violence, and the number of places available in shelters throughout the country increased to 231 from 179 in 2018. The Finnish branch of Amnesty International stated that 550 places were needed to support the number of victims properly and that some rural areas had very few shelters and insufficient space in those shelters. The Human Rights Center acknowledged the problem. A survey of shelter services published by the THL during the year found a decrease in the number of shelter clients since 2019. The use of social welfare and health care services that refer clients decreased during COVID-19 lockdowns, which contributed to a decrease in the use of shelters. The THL estimated that the total required number of family places in shelters varied between 262 and 367. The ombudsman for equality at the Ministry of Justice highlighted problems with access to domestic violence shelters in remote rural areas. Funding of support services for survivors of violence were predominantly provided from the revenue of a state-owned company operating slot machines and gambling.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is treated as aggravated assault under the law and may be punished with imprisonment or deportation. Taking a girl living in the country abroad for FGM/C is also considered a crime. The government generally enforced the law. A school health survey released by the THL in June 2020, the most recent data available, found that 0.2 percent of girls attending high school or vocational school had undergone FGM/C and that at least 10 girls who answered the questionnaire were mutilated in Finland. The population that most reported having undergone FGM/C were Somali-born residents.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as a specific, punishable offense with penalties ranging from fines to up to six months’ imprisonment. Employers who fail to protect employees from workplace harassment are subject to the same penalties. The prosecutor general is responsible for investigating sexual harassment complaints. The government generally enforced the law.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

In 2019 a group of parents, midwives, and doulas (nonmedical professionals who provide comfort and support to women during pregnancy and childbirth) organized a public campaign against alleged obstetric violence based on reports of episiotomies being performed during birth without informing or obtaining the consent of the mother and medical personnel pressuring pregnant women to consent to interventions and performing “violent internal examinations” on female patients.

The law requires that a transgender person present a medical certificate of infertility before the government may legally recognize their gender identity (see Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, below, for additional information.)

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, and emergency contraception was available as part of the clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law effectively. Pregnant women experienced difficulties in finding a job, returning from leave, and renewing fixed-term contracts. The equality ombudsman estimated that half of all calls relating to workplace discrimination concerned discrimination based on pregnancy or issues involving return from parental leave (see also section 7.d.).

France

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for rape is 15 years’ imprisonment, which may be increased. The government and NGOs provided shelters, counseling, and hotlines for rape survivors.

The law prohibits domestic violence against women and men, including spousal abuse, and the government generally enforced the law effectively. The penalty for domestic violence against either gender varies from three years to 20 years in prison and a substantial fine.

In 2019 the government’s Interministerial Agency for the Protection of Women against Violence and Combatting Human Trafficking published data showing that in 2018 approximately 213,000 women older than 18 declared they were survivors of physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner or former partner. The agency reported that over the same period, 94,000 women declared they had been survivors of rape or attempted rape.

In 2019 the National Observatory of Crime and Criminal Justice, an independent public body, and the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) published a joint study showing that the number of persons who considered themselves survivors of sexual violence committed by a person who did not live with them declined from 265,000 in 2017 to 185,000 in 2018. In 2017 there had been a sharp increase in the number of estimated victims so, despite the decline, the 2018 estimate still reflected the second-highest level of abuse since the organizations began collecting data in 2008.

In its 2020 annual report on delinquency published on January 28, the Ministry of Interior reported that domestic violence and rape cases rose by 9 and 11 percent, respectively, compared with 2019. Police and gendarmes registered 24,800 rapes committed in the country in 2020, an 11 percent increase compared with 2019 when 22,300 rapes were registered. The government sponsored and funded programs for women survivors of gender-based violence, including shelters, counseling, hotlines, free mobile phones, and a media campaign. The government also supported the work of 25 associations and NGOs dedicated to addressing domestic violence.

In 2019 the government initiated a national forum on domestic violence that brought together dozens of ministers, judges, police officers, survivors’ relatives, and feminist groups in approximately 100 conferences across the country. At the close of the conferences, then prime minister Philippe announced 46 measures aimed at preventing gender-based violence, including domestic violence. Among concrete measures announced were the creation of 1,000 new places in shelters for survivors and improved training for those who work with survivors of domestic violence. On September 3, Prime Minister Castex reported that, of the 46 measures announced in 2019, 36 had been implemented.

In July 2020 parliament adopted a bill on the protection of domestic violence survivors that authorizes doctors to waive medical confidentiality and report to police if a patient’s life is in “immediate danger.” The law reinforces harassment penalties and includes a 10-year prison sentence in cases where violence led to a victim’s suicide. The law also makes it possible for authorities to suspend parental rights in cases of domestic violence.

Starting in September 2020, judges in five courts (Bobigny, Pontoise, Douai, Angouleme, and Aix-en-Provence) were able to order domestic violence offenders to wear electronic tracking bracelets with a monitor that alerts survivors and police if the abuser comes within a certain distance of the survivor. Judges may order trackers for men charged with assault, even if not yet convicted, provided sufficient grounds are met and the suspect accepts. If a suspect refuses a tracker, the judge may order prosecutors to open a criminal inquiry. Survivors will be given a warning device, and alleged offenders must submit to restraining orders as defined by judges.

The government estimated more than 200,000 women were survivors of marital violence each year, with many cases never reported. Official statistics showed that 102 women were killed in domestic violence cases in 2020, down from 149 in 2019. At year’s end the feminist collective “Nous toutes” (All of us) estimated that 113 women were killed in cases involving domestic violence during the year.

On May 4, 31-year-old Chahinez Boutaa, a mother of three, was shot in the legs by her husband before being doused in a flammable liquid and burned alive. The attack happened in broad daylight in Merignac. Following Chahinez Boutaa’s killing, the government launched an inquiry, whose conclusions pointed to serious flaws in the system, notably in the failure to monitor the perpetrator upon his release from prison. The conclusions also revealed a lack of coordination between police and judicial services. In September media outlets leaked an internal police report conducted by the inspector general of the IGPN on the handling of this case. The report concluded that two high-ranking police officers, an inspector and a sergeant, should face a disciplinary hearing and possibly face other sanctions after the report revealed they had made errors of judgment in dealing with this case.

On June 9, the government announced a series of measures to offer women better protection, to include evaluating the danger posed by a perpetrator prior to any easing of sentences. The number of emergency telephones given by police to abuse victims to make calls in case of immediate danger was scheduled to be increased to 3,000 by early 2022, up from the existing 1,324. The government also announced the “reinforcement of the control and possession” of weapons and the creation of a committee to monitor the measures, as well as the introduction of a conjugal violence file, shared and updated each time the police are called in to deal with a case of conjugal violence or when a formal complaint is lodged.

On June 25, a court in Saone-et-Loire sentenced a woman who had killed her rapist husband to a four-year term with three years suspended. She was spared more prison time as she had already served a year in pretrial detention. Prosecutors told the court that the 40-year-old should not go back to prison, as she was “very clearly a victim” of her tyrannical husband.

In an August 2 interview, Interior Minister Darmanin announced new measures against domestic violence. He stated that priority would be given to the processing of complaints of domestic violence, and that an officer specializing in this type of violence would be appointed to each police station and each gendarmerie brigade across the country. To handle the increased number of court procedures (193,000 for the year 2020), Darmanin promised a recruitment drive for judicial police officers.

On September 24, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti unveiled an experiment that uses virtual reality technology to deter men convicted of domestic violence from reoffending. The technology offers a “total immersion” experience by way of a headset that allows the offender to look at things from the point of view of his victims. Some 30 volunteers – all men who have been convicted for domestic violence –chose to participate in the experiment, which started in October and will be run for a year by three prison services. Six are from Villepinte and 12 are from Meaux, suburbs north-east of Paris, while 10 are in the south-eastern city of Lyon. “We have given priority to the profiles that are most likely to re-offend,” the Justice Ministry said of the project, which was to be independently evaluated before being made permanent.

On October 1, the 2021 European Crystal Scales of Justice prize, organized by the Council of Europe to reward innovative judicial practices within European judicial institutions, was awarded to the Ministry of Justice for its project Simplified filing of complaints in hospitals for victims of domestic violence. The project involved a system that allows investigating authorities to receive complaints from victims of domestic violence directly in medical facilities. The system strengthens survivor protection by providing a simplified procedure for filing a complaint at the moment and place where the violence was reported.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C was practiced in the country, particularly within diaspora communities. Various laws prohibit FGM/C and include extraterritorial jurisdiction, allowing authorities to prosecute FGM/C, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, even if it is committed outside the country, and up to 30 years if the FGM/C leads to the death of the victim. The government provided reconstructive surgery and counseling for FGM/C survivors.

According to the latest statistics available from the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination, between 40,000 and 60,000 FGM/C survivors resided in the country; the majority were from sub-Saharan African countries where FGM/C was prevalent, and the procedure was performed. According to the Group against Sexual Mutilation, 350 excisions were performed in the country each year. In 2019 the government initiated a national action plan to combat FGM/C, focusing on identifying risks, preventing FGM/C, and supporting female survivors. In 2019 the National Public Health Agency estimated the number of victims of FGM/C rose from 62,000 in the early 2000s to 124,000 in the middle 2010s.

On February 6, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilations/Cutting, Junior Minister of Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination Schiappa announced the allocation of 60,000 euros ($69,000) to implement a key provision of the 2019 national action plan to eradicate FGM/C. The funds were to support initial trials of a system to study the prevalence of FGM/C in the country.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits gender-based violence, including sexual harassment of both women and men in the workplace. Sexual harassment is defined as “subjecting an individual to repeated acts, comments, or any other conduct of a sexual nature that are detrimental to a person’s dignity because of their degrading or humiliating character, thereby creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.” The government enforced the law.

The law provides for on-the-spot fines for persons who sexually harass others on the street (including wolf whistling), and substantial fines if there are aggravating circumstances. The law covers sexual or sexist comments and behavior that is degrading, humiliating, intimidating, hostile, or offensive and provides for increased sanctions for cyberstalking and prohibits taking pictures or videos under someone’s clothes without consent, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and a substantial fine. In a report released on July 6, the Ministry of Interior noted that authorities fined 3,500 men for harassing women in public spaces since the introduction of the law in 2018, including 850 during the first five months of the year.

In May 2020 the government unveiled a plan to fast-track court proceedings for street harassment and a campaign to keep women safe on the streets. The measures were part of a “cat-calling law,” which already allows for on-the-spot fines. The new provisions tighten enforcement for street harassment against women, allowing prosecutors to hear cases immediately. The plan, backed by the United Nations, allowed women who feel in danger “to know where they can find refuge if there are no police officers at hand to take their statement.” Refuge shelters could be bars, restaurants, pharmacies, or any business willing to take part in the program. Women would be able to recognize participating locations by a label displayed outside the business. On April 15, the government launched a “barometer” program to assess the street harassment phenomenon and map “red areas” of concern.

According to the latest statistics released by the Ministry of Interior in January, reported cases of sexual harassment increased by 6 percent in 2020, with 2,270 complaints registered by police.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

On September 9, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced that contraception will be free for women up to the age of 25 beginning in 2022, extending a program under which girls ages 15 to 18 could receive free contraception. The minister stated that 25 was chosen as the age limit because “this age corresponds with more economic and social autonomy,” adding that “it’s also the age limit for coverage under one’s family health plan.”

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based job discrimination and harassment of subordinates by superiors, but this prohibition does not apply to relationships between peers. The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, employment, property, nationality, and inheritance laws, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property in line with the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Diversity, the Fight against Discrimination and Equal Opportunities is responsible for protecting the legal rights of women. The constitution and law provide for equal access to professional and social positions, and the government generally enforced the laws.

There was discrimination against women with respect to employment and occupation (see section 7.d.), and women were underrepresented in most levels of government leadership.

Gabon

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape; convicted rapists face penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Nevertheless, authorities seldom prosecuted rape cases. The law addresses spousal and intimate partner rape regardless of gender. There were no reliable statistics on the prevalence of rape, but a women’s advocacy NGO estimated it to be a frequent occurrence. Discussing rape remained taboo, and survivors often opted not to report it due to shame or fear of reprisal.

On January 29, an agent of the Republican Guard raped a girl age 15 in Libreville. The Army Disciplinary Council heard his case and dismissed him from the army. He received no further sanctions.

Although the law prohibits domestic violence, NGOs reported it was common. Penalties for conviction range from two months’ to 15 years’ imprisonment. Women rarely filed complaints, due to shame or fear of reprisal, although the government operated a counseling group to provide support for abuse victims. The government provided in-kind support to an NGO center to assist victims of domestic violence, and through the center’s work, police intervened in response to incidents of domestic violence. In April the government opened a national hotline to assist persons experiencing any kind of violence.

Sexual Harassment: NGOs reported sexual harassment of women continued to be pervasive. The law states sexual harassment “constitutes an offense against morals (and includes) any behavior, attitude or repeated assiduous or suggestive words, directly or indirectly attributable to a person who, abusing the authority or influence conferred on him by his functions or its social rank, aims to obtain sexual favors from an individual of one or the other sex.” Conviction of sexual harassment is punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment and a substantial monetary fine. During the year there were no reports of convictions for sexual harassment or of other enforcement of the relevant law.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The Ministry of Health provided guidance on family-planning best practices to health facilities throughout the country. There were some social and cultural barriers to access to family planning based on behavioral norms, religious beliefs, and an individual’s sexual orientation. Adolescents in rural areas also sometimes lacked access to family planning. Sexual and reproductive health services, but not including emergency contraception, were available to survivors of sexual violence at government and private medical facilities, and local NGOs provided support to sexual violence survivors.

The World Health Organization estimated the maternal mortality rate in 2017 at 252 deaths per 100,000 live births. According to the 2012 Gabon Demographic and Health Survey, girls and women ages 15 to 19 were among the most affected, representing 34 percent of maternal deaths. The main causes of maternal death were hemorrhages during childbirth, high blood pressure, and infections.

Discrimination: The law does not generally distinguish between the legal status and rights of women and men. The law provides for equal treatment regarding property, nationality, and inheritance. In September the civil and penal codes were changed to promote gender equality and to reduce the impact of violence against women. The following main points were addressed in the law: full equality between women and men in matters of divorce and enabling divorce proceedings through mutual consent, with or without a judge’s intervention; the role of head of the family is to be shared between spouses and both can choose the family residence together; wives no longer need to notify their husbands before opening a bank account or tell them their debit balance; strengthening sociomedical care, with the government committing to take responsibility for the medical and psychological care of female victims of violence (e.g., medical certificates confirming physical abuse are to be free of charge, as 9 percent of women were victims of sexual violence, as reported by a prominent NGO); harsher sanctions for domestic abuses and widows’ spoliation; and heavier penalties for corruption among judicial police officers or agents who attempt to coerce or pressure victims.

There were no reports of the government failing to enforce the law effectively. No specific law requires equal pay for equal work. Women faced considerable societal discrimination, including in obtaining loans and credit and, for married women, opening bank accounts without their husbands’ permission and administering jointly owned assets, especially in rural areas.

Georgia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal if it is committed by use of force, threat of use of force, or with a victim of a “helpless condition,” a legal term generally applied to elderly individuals, persons with mental or physical disabilities, or others deemed unable to resist. Some expressed concern that the definition of rape did not conform to international standards to combat violence against women, and that the lack of a positive consent framework meant that some rapes went uninvestigated or unpunished. A convicted first-time offender may be imprisoned for up to eight years. The government did not enforce the law effectively.

Investigative authorities lacked training on effective procedures on case handling and evidence collection. Survivors were often told to focus on physical violence as proof of sexual violence. GYLA reported sexual violence was prevalent and underreported. In only a small number of reported cases were perpetrators convicted. Prosecutors applied overly burdensome evidence requirements for bringing charges against perpetrators of sexual violence, while overwhelmingly strict requirements for convictions of sexual violence crimes were applied by judges.

The Public Defender’s Office noted in its 2020 report, released in April, serious legislative shortcomings in the regulation of crimes involving sexual violence, as well as in investigation, criminal prosecution, and court hearing of such crimes, falling short of the standards of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and international human rights. The office’s analysis showed that in the cases of rape and other sexual violence, courts did not consider the absence of a survivor’s consent an integral part of the definition of crime. Furthermore, the legislation does not consider a broad spectrum of circumstances that may affect the survivor’s will and provides for a disproportionately lenient punishment for a crime committed in certain conditions.

The law criminalizes domestic violence. In cases that do not result in physical injury, penalties for conviction of domestic violence include 80 to 150 hours of community service or imprisonment for up to two years. Domestic and gender-based violence remained a significant problem that the government took several steps to combat. The Ministry of Internal Affairs had a risk assessment tool that enables a police officer to decide whether to issue a restraining order based on a questionnaire available in the restraining order protocol, the data assessment, and risk analysis. In addition, if there was a high risk of recurrence of violence, a system of electronic surveillance allowed the Ministry of Internal Affairs to monitor abusers 24 hours a day. The high rate of domestic violence showed reporting of incidents increased in the country and that police were responding. The 112 Emergency Center also deployed an app that allows survivors of domestic or other violence to communicate via text message with emergency operators, making it easier to report abuse without alerting the perpetrator who may still be nearby. Shortcomings, however, remained. In one example, in 2019 an employee of the Tbilisi City Council accused council member Ilia Jishkariani of sexual assault and beating. The Prosecutor’s Office charged Jishkariani with sexual and other violence; the trial at Tbilisi City Court, which started in 2019, continued as of year’s end.

In June parliament approved legislation on the introduction of witness and survivor advocates that sit within police units. The provisions, which took effect on June 24, allow survivor advocates to support witnesses and survivors during the legal proceedings by establishing effective communication between them and investigators, provide necessary information during the investigation, and offer state services and assist in the application of such services. As of November there were 13 such advocates assigned to major police departments. Previously, these positions existed only at the Prosecution Service.

Despite legislative changes, the Public Defender’s Office reported in its annual report for 2020 that authorities lacked a comprehensive approach to combating domestic violence and violence against women, and there was insufficient coordination among government agencies.

The Public Defender’s Office highlighted a shortage of measures to prevent violence against women and to empower survivors of domestic violence. The office analyzed gender-based killings (femicides) and concluded they demonstrated an absence of mechanisms to prevent violence against women in the country.

The law provides for measures to detect signs of domestic violence in minors by crisis and shelter staff and promotes a prevention-oriented approach. The Public Defender’s Office and women’s rights NGOs emphasized there remained a need for the government to improve coordination between government agencies working on the matter.

NGOs and the government expanded services provided to survivors of domestic violence in recent years. GYLA remained concerned that notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, official statistics on domestic violence and violence against women did not change significantly, which indicated a possible underreporting of domestic violence incidents by victims.

Domestic violence laws mandate the provision of temporary protective measures, including shelter, protective orders, and restraining orders that prohibit an abuser from coming within 330 feet of the survivor and from using common property, such as a residence or vehicle, for up to nine months.

In 2020 authorities began using electronic surveillance bracelets for domestic violence abusers. The use of electronic surveillance is subject to a judicial decision. Police assess the risk of recurrence of violence and, in parallel with issuing the restraining order, are required to submit a report to the court for approval within 24 hours. Both the electronic surveillance period and the validity of a restraining order last for one month and require consent of the survivor.

Local NGOs and the government jointly operated a 24-hour hotline and shelters for abused women and their minor children, although space in the shelters was limited and only five of the country’s 10 regions had facilities.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Kidnapping women for marriage occurred in remote areas and in ethnic minority communities but was rare. The Public Defender’s Office reported some cases of kidnapping for forced marriage and early marriage in its 2020 report.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal under the code of administrative offenses but is not criminalized; it remained a problem in the workplace. By law sexual harassment is considered a form of discrimination and is defined as an unwanted physical, verbal, or nonverbal action of a sexual nature that aims to degrade or results in the degradation of a person or creation of a hostile environment for that person. Based on laws on sexual harassment, the public defender analyzes the case and provides recommendations on the case to authorized persons at the institution where the violation took place. During the year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Civil Service Bureau, State Inspector’s Service, and an office in the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport developed internal regulatory frameworks for responding to workplace sexual harassment incidents, according to UN Women.

Under the code of administrative offenses, sexual harassment victims may file complaints with police. If found guilty, a person can be punished with a token monetary fine; repeated violations result in an increased fine or correctional work for up to one month. Repeated violations in the case of a minor, a pregnant woman, a person unable to resist due to physical or mental helplessness, a person with a disability, or in the presence of a minor with prior knowledge leads to a more substantial fine. Through October the Public Defender’s Office examined four cases of alleged sexual harassment and identified violations in two instances. Others were pending.

The public defender considered especially problematic a selective approach applied by authorities to instances of violence against women and domestic violence involving influential persons as abusers. In such cases authorities often delayed their response, leaving the impression that preference was given to the abuser’s, rather than the victim’s, interests. Victims often had to go public to prompt action by relevant authorities.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Authorities regulated the use of surrogacy services. A Ministry of Justice decree regulating civil acts restricts the right to surrogacy to heterosexual couples who have been married or living together for more than one year. Women and LGBTQI+ rights organizations considered the restriction an infringement on the ability of single women and LGBTQI+ persons to have a child.

The UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) reported that women from minority communities, women from rural areas, and poor women faced barriers in accessing information related to their reproductive health and financial barriers limited access to customized contraceptive options for many women.

According to the Public Defender’s Office, limited access to information about contraceptives remained a problem for girls and women of childbearing age. The office stated human sexuality education was not fully integrated into school curriculums. Programs in schools failed to provide information to teenagers on safer sex. The lack of comprehensive education prevented girls from understanding the risks associated with early marriage and protecting themselves from early pregnancy.

The Public Defender’s Office stated in its 2020 annual report that “women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, full integration of family planning services and contraceptives into primary care, as well as integration of comprehensive education on human sexuality into the formal education system remain challenging.” Women in rural areas, especially remote mountain villages, lacked regular access to family planning services and clinics. Women often had to travel to larger towns for these services, causing additional financial burden.

While women have the ability to access skilled personal medical attention during pregnancy and childbirth, the use of maternal health services decreased during the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated movement restrictions. The Public Defender’s Office reported a lack of the postpartum care needed for the prevention of maternal mortality and for maintaining women’s mental and physical well-being. Maternal health services were somewhat limited for women who did not speak Georgian.

The Agency for Social Care, under the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs, provided medical, psychological, legal, and additional assistance to survivors of sexual violence.

The UNFPA reported that the state funded services for survivors of sexual violence based on a decree that stipulates the state must fund certain services, including, but not limited to, emergency contraceptives and postexposure prophylaxis. Regulations, however, require survivors of sexual assault, who may hesitate to come forward, to notify police to receive these services. Victims of trafficking in persons and domestic violence do not need to cooperate with police to receive services.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under family, religious, personal status and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing business or property.

Civil society organizations continued to report discrimination against women in the workplace. The Public Defender’s Office monitored gender equality complaints, in particular those involving domestic violence and workplace harassment, and stated that gender equality remained a problem. The office considered the small number of government projects, programs, and initiatives designed to empower women to be inadequate to achieve gender equality.

Germany

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, of men and women, and provides penalties of up to 15 years in prison. Without a court order, officials may temporarily deny access to their household to those accused of abuse, or they may impose a restraining order. In severe cases of rape and domestic violence, authorities can prosecute individuals for assault or rape and require them to pay damages. Penalties depend on the nature of the case. The government enforced the laws effectively.

The federal government, the states, and NGOs supported numerous projects to prevent and respond to cases of gender-based violence, including providing survivors with greater access to medical care and legal assistance. Approximately 350 women’s shelters operated throughout the country.

The NGO Central Information Agency of Autonomous Women’s Shelters (ZIF) reported accessibility problems, especially in bigger cities, because women who found refuge in a shelter tended to stay there longer due to a lack of available and affordable housing. ZIF also stated refugee women were particularly at risk, since they were required to maintain residence in a single district for three years and many resided in districts in which there were no women’s shelters.

The women’s shelter association Frauenhauskoordinierung e.V. complained that federal vaccination regulations did not prioritize residents and staff of women’s shelters for COVID-19 vaccination, in contrast to homeless shelters, refugee housing, and other group housing settings, threatening the homes’ ability to provide shelter in the event of an outbreak. Multiple NGOs expressed concern the COVID-19 lockdown constrained opportunities for women to escape violent domestic situations. ZIF called for additional government funding to place women and children in hotels if quarantine rendered its shelters inaccessible.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C of women and girls is a criminal offense punishable by one to 15 years in prison, even if performed abroad. Authorities can revoke the passports of individuals they suspect are traveling abroad to subject a girl or woman to FGM/C; however, authorities have not taken this step since the law took effect in 2017. During the year there were no reports FGM/C was performed in the country. A working group under the leadership of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth collaborated with other federal government bodies and all 16 states to combat FGM/C.

In July the Federal Ministry for Women and Families published a “protection letter” for girls at risk of FGM/C, warning of the high criminal penalties for FGM/C in the country. The letter was intended to be carried when travelling abroad and shown to relatives or others who tried to subject girls to FGM/C.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law criminalizes “honor killings” as murder and the government enforced the law effectively. During the year there were some reports of such killings in the country; for example, in December, Berlin prosecutors charged two men of Afghan descent with murdering their sister age 34 in July because she had divorced her abusive husband and begun a new relationship. No trial date had been set at year’s end. Although authorities estimated the number of such killings fluctuated between approximately three and 12 during any year, some observers questioned how many of these were “honor killings,” which media tended to attribute to immigrant communities, and how many were other manifestations of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment of women was a recognized problem and prohibited by law. Penalties include fines and prison sentences of up to five years. Various disciplinary measures against harassment in the workplace are available, including dismissal of the perpetrator. The law requires employers to protect employees from sexual harassment. The law considers an employer’s failure to take measures to protect employees from sexual harassment to be a breach of contract, and an affected employee has the right to paid leave until the employer rectifies the problem. Unions, churches, government agencies, and NGOs operated a variety of support programs for women who experienced sexual harassment and sponsored seminars and training to prevent it.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

There are no legal, social, or cultural barriers, nor government policies, that adversely affect access to contraception nor to attendance of skilled health personnel during pregnancy and childbirth. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, including emergency contraception.

Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution, including under family, labor, religious, personal status, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government generally enforced the law effectively.

Greece

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Conviction of rape, including spousal rape, and attempted rape is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment, and up to life imprisonment in cases of gang rape, multiple rapes by the same perpetrator, or if the rape results in death. Charges may be pressed without the need of a survivor complaint. If the survivor does not wish to seek prosecution, the prosecutor may decide to drop charges. The law applies equally to all survivors, regardless of gender.

Penalties for domestic violence range from one to three years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity of the violence. The court may impose longer prison sentences for crimes against pregnant or minor survivors. Authorities generally enforced the law effectively when the crimes were reported; however, some NGOs stated law enforcement authorities did not respond appropriately to survivors reporting domestic violence. As of December 15, police recorded 17 homicides of women by existing or former husbands or male partners. In one case a neighbor claimed to have called police to report violence 19 days before the fatal incident, but police who came to the scene left immediately without intervening.

On January 14, Olympic sailing medalist Sofia Bekatorou revealed that an official in the National Sailing Federation sexually abused her more than 20 years previously, marking the first time a prominent woman made a public revelation and sparking the country’s version of the global “Me Too” movement. Government officials expressed solidarity with Bekatorou, and prominent newspapers and broadcasters reported on the topic, which generally had been taboo in mainstream media. The Supreme Court encouraged prosecutors to prioritize responding to such claims and the government launched the metoogreece.gr website that urged survivors of gender-based violence to follow Bekatorou’s example. In response, other women, primarily from the sports, entertainment, and business arenas, shared similar experiences. Prosecutors launched investigations against alleged perpetrators, some of whom were well-known actors and directors.

Sexual Harassment: Penalties for conviction of sexual harassment are up to three years’ imprisonment and may include longer terms for perpetrators who used positions of authority or the survivor’s need for employment. In November 2020 the NGO ActionAid reported that 85 percent of women were subjected to sexual harassment. The research was based on a sample of 1,001 women from across the country and an additional 376 women working in tourism and catering. Based on the same research, only 6 percent officially denounced the incidents.

During the year parliament passed several laws that addressed sexual harassment. On June 19, parliament adopted into law the International Labor Organization Convention on Violence and Harassment. The law includes provisions that require employers to investigate and report cases of workplace harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Some pregnant women and mothers with newborns, particularly those residing in the five reception and identification centers for asylum seekers in the Aegean islands during the COVID-19 pandemic, faced obstacles in accessing proper health care and hygiene products.

There were no legal, social, and cultural barriers to access to contraceptives. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The government effectively enforced the laws promoting gender equality, although discrimination occurred, especially in the private sector. With the notarized consent of concerned parties, Muslim minority persons in Thrace may request the use of sharia for family and inheritance matters.

Grenada

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, domestic violence, and intimate partner violence. It stipulates a sentence of flogging or up to 30 years’ imprisonment for a conviction of any nonconsensual form of sex. Authorities referred charges involving rape or related crimes for prosecution and generally enforced the law.

The law prohibits domestic violence and provides for penalties at the discretion of the presiding judge based on the severity of the offense. The law allows for a maximum penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment, and authorities enforced the law. The Central Statistical Office reported cases of domestic violence against both women and men. Police and judicial authorities usually acted promptly in cases of domestic violence. According to women’s rights monitors, violence against women and minors remained a serious and pervasive problem. The police and other government agents did not incite, perpetrate, or explicitly or implicitly condone gender-based violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but there are no criminal penalties for it. The government noted it was a persistent problem. Some employers took steps to educate employees and reduce harassment, including through termination of employment in some cases. The Gender-based Violence Unit and Social Services within the Ministry of Social Development conducted awareness drives and worked with victims of sexual harassment

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Contraception was widely available. There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs created cultural barriers to contraception usage.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraceptives, through Grenada Planned Parenthood. Emergency contraceptives were also available to victims at pharmacies and clinics throughout the county. Counseling and other services were provided through the Ministry of Social Development. The Ministry of Social Development, the Gender-based Violence Unit, Social Services, and the Grenada Planned Parenthood Association assisted victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Discrimination: Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The law mandates equal pay for equal work. The law does not provide for civil or criminal penalties for sexual harassment in employment. There was no evidence of formal discrimination in such areas as marriage, divorce, child custody, education, the judicial process, and other institutions, including housing, although the law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender for access to credit. The government enforced the law effectively.

Guinea

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and domestic violence, but both occurred frequently, and authorities rarely prosecuted perpetrators. The law does not address spousal rape or the gender of survivors. Rape is punishable by five to 20 years in prison. Survivors often declined to report crimes to police due to custom, fear of stigmatization, reprisal, and a lack of cooperation from investigating police or gendarmes. Studies indicated citizens also were reluctant to report crimes because they feared police would ask the survivor to pay for the investigation.

In domestic violence cases, authorities may file charges under general assault, which carries sentences of two to five years in prison and fines. Violence against a woman that causes an injury is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine. If the injury causes mutilation, amputation, or other loss of body parts, it is punishable by 20 years of imprisonment; if the victim dies, the crime is punishable by life imprisonment. Assault constitutes grounds for divorce under civil law, but police rarely intervened in domestic disputes, and courts rarely punished perpetrators.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): Although the Transition Charter does not explicitly prohibit FGM/C, it grants individuals the right to their physical integrity. Prior to September 5, the constitution and laws prohibited FGM/C. The country had an extremely high FGM/C prevalence rate. According to a 2018 UNICEF survey, 94.5 percent of women and girls ages 15 to 49 had undergone the procedure, which was practiced throughout the country and among all religious and ethnic groups. The rate of FGM/C for girls between the ages of six and 14 dropped six percentage points since 2015.

The law specifies imprisonment of five to 20 years and a fine if the victim is severely injured or dies; if the victim dies within 40 days of the procedure the penalty is up to life in prison or death. The law provides for imprisonment of three months to two years and fines for perpetrators who do not inflict severe injury or death. These laws were not effectively or regularly enforced. In 2019 the Conde government adopted an action plan to eliminate FGM/C (2019-23) that included integrating FGM/C modules into the curriculum of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Conakry and updating the curriculum for midwifery and social work students. During the year the Conde administration continued to cooperate with NGOs and youth organizations in their efforts to eradicate FGM/C and educate health workers, government employees, and communities on the dangers of the practice.

On October 25-26, the CNRD appointed Morissanda Kouyate, a lifelong advocate for women’s rights and the eradication of FGM/C, as minister of foreign affairs, international cooperation, African integration, and Guineans abroad.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits all forms of workplace harassment, including sexual harassment; however, the Transition Charter does not explicitly mention workplace or sexual harassment. Prior to September 5, the constitution prohibited harassment based on sex, race, ethnicity, political opinions, and other grounds. The Ministry of Labor did not document any case of sexual harassment, despite its frequency. The law penalizes sexual harassment. Sentences range from three months to two years in prison and the payment of a fine, depending on the gravity of the harassment. Authorities rarely enforced the law.

According to the Union of Guinean Workers, women working in the public sector reported professional repercussions, marginalization, and threats by superiors when they did not accept their advances.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

No law adversely affected access to contraception, but low accessibility and poor quality of family planning services as well as limited contraception choices hindered access. Cultural barriers included a lack of male partner engagement or support for a woman’s decision to use family planning services; lack of decision-making power for women, as women in many cases needed approval from their husbands before using health services, including family planning; and expectations for newlywed couples to have children. Religious beliefs also hindered access. According to the 2018 Demographic and Health Survey, modern contraceptive prevalence rate among women ages 15-49 who were married or in a relationship was 11 percent.

According to the 2018 Demographic and Health Survey, 55 percent of women gave birth with a skilled health-care professional present. Lack of quality health care and sociocultural barriers, such as preferring a female health attendant during pregnancy and childbirth, also affected women’s access to skilled health attendants when no midwives were available.

According to the 2016 UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, the maternal mortality rate was 550 per 100,000 live births. Lack of accessible, quality health services, discrimination, gender inequalities, early marriage, and adolescent pregnancy all contributed to the maternal death rate. (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) subsection for additional information.) According to the UN Population Fund, the adolescent birth rate was 120 per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 years.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Multisectoral committees at the national, regional, and local levels addressed gender-based violence, including sexual violence. Committee participants included health professionals, police, and administrative authorities. Health professionals provided health care, including sexual and reproductive health services, to survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Emergency contraception was available at International Planned Parenthood Federation-affiliated clinics through purchases made by the UN Population Fund. Emergency contraception was also included in gender-based violence kits.

Guinea-Bissau

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including spousal rape, and provides penalties for conviction of two to 12 years in prison; however, the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law permits prosecution of rape only when reported by the victim, which observers noted was rare due to victims’ fear of social stigma and retribution.

Although the law prohibits domestic violence, such abuse was widespread. The government did not undertake specific measures to counter social pressure against reporting domestic violence, rape, incest, and other mistreatment of women.

Cases of domestic violence and child abuse were commonly resolved within the household. Limited access to institutions of justice also contributed to the preference for customary law as a way of solving societal problems. Recourse to the formal justice system was poorly understood, expensive, and seldom used.

In September the National Network to End Gender Based Violence denounced an increase of reported cases of violence against women and children due to the confinement measures of COVID-19.

In September 2020 the Judiciary Police arrested a 37-year-old man in Bafata on suspicion of sexual abuse of children younger than age 12. According to police, the suspect also allegedly impregnated one victim. The suspect was detained and presented to the Public Ministry for investigation.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, without reference to age of the victims. FGM/C was practiced on girls younger than age five. Conviction for its practice is punishable by a fine and five years in prison. A study by the Guinean Human Rights League, published in 2018, indicated that about 44 percent of local women between 15 and 49 years of age were survivors of FGM/C, of which 29.6 percent were girls younger than 14 years of age.

UNICEF cited a higher figure of 52 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 who had undergone FGM/C. Anti-FGM/C nongovernmental organization (NGO) 28 TooMany said that in some parts of the country, the figure was as high as 95 percent. The Joint Program on FGM/C of the UN Population Fund and UNICEF worked with the Ministry of Justice to strengthen the dissemination and application of the law by building the capacities of officials responsible for program implementation. Muslim preachers and scholars called for the eradication of FGM/C.

The president of the National Committee for the Abandonment of Traditional Practices Harmful to Women’s and Children’s Health, Fatumata Djau Balde, said in May that her organization had visited 800 rural villages to encourage the abandonment of FGM/C. She claimed also that the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in FGM/C because people were confined to their homes and not working, and women were not able to seek help from authorities outside of the home.

UNICEF reported that FGM/C led to increased rates of maternal morbidity, genital infections, urinary incontinence, increased infertility, and an increased risk of HIV transmission.

Sexual Harassment: No law prohibits sexual harassment, and it was widespread. The government undertook no initiatives to combat the problem.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The UN Population Fund reported that 114 health centers offered family planning services but that the availability of birth control services they offered varied from center to center. The 2018-2019 UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey reported that 20.2 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception. Certain religious groups discouraged use of modern contraception.

The World Heath Statistics 2020 report estimated that skilled health personnel attended 45 percent of births and that 55.7 percent of women of reproductive age had access to modern methods of family planning. The health system’s obstetric care capacity was insufficient, and emergency care was available only in Bissau. The adolescent birth rate was 103 per 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19. There was no information on government assistance to victims of sexual assault.

According to UN estimates, the maternal mortality rate was 667 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020, and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 160. Major factors causing high maternal mortality were poor health infrastructure and service delivery as well as high rates of adolescent pregnancy.

Discrimination: The constitution grants men and women equal rights. Gender discrimination, however, prevailed due to societal norms based on traditional customs and rules of ethnic groups and religious communities that perpetuated inequalities. The land-tenure law recognizes equal rights for men and women to access the land, yet it also recognizes the customary law that favors men as a way of acquiring tenure rights. There were legal restrictions to women’s employment in the same occupations and industries as men.

Guyana

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The law provides stringent penalties for rape, with life imprisonment as the maximum penalty. Successful prosecution of domestic violence cases was infrequent. As of September, police reported that only 38 percent of reports of rape resulted in criminal charges, while rape cases countrywide increased by nearly 50 percent compared with the same period in 2020. In June a pregnant teenage girl told authorities she had been raped by two men who filmed the encounter, and she subsequently miscarried. As of September, only one of the perpetrators was in custody.

Domestic violence and violence against women, including spousal abuse, was widespread. The law prohibits domestic violence and allows victims to seek prompt protection, occupation, or tenancy orders from a magistrate. Penalties for violation of protection orders include fines and 12 months’ imprisonment. The law was not enforced effectively. There were reports of police accepting bribes from perpetrators and of magistrates applying inadequate sentences after conviction. In other instances, police noted that cases were dropped after the victim refused to proceed with charges or support the evidence collection.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and provides for monetary penalties and award of damages to victims. The law does not cover harassment in schools. Acts of sexual harassment involving physical assault are prosecuted under relevant criminal statutes. While reports of sexual harassment were common, no cases had been filed as of September.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Vulnerable populations were able to provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health, including for sterilization.

No government policies adversely affected access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth, but geographical circumstances remained the primary barrier to access health care, specifically in the interior regions. The World Health Organization reported the country had a maternal mortality rate of 169 deaths per 100,000 live births. Primary causes for maternal death included poor obstetric performance, malaria, poor nutrition, and infrequent access to prenatal care among some women in remote areas due to inadequate transportation. A 2017 UNICEF study reported anecdotally that maternal mortality rates for the indigenous community, irrespective of location, were higher than for the rest of the population but did not have qualitative data to back up the date.

UNICEF data from 2017 indicated that the rate of adolescent pregnancy within the indigenous community, 148 per thousand, was double the national average of 74 per thousand.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

The greatest barrier to accessing emergency health care was geographical; residents of remote interior regions were not able to access nearby medical facilities.

Discrimination: Although women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, gender-related discrimination was widespread and deeply ingrained. The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but there was no meaningful enforcement against such discrimination in the workplace. Job vacancy notices routinely specified that the employer sought only male or only female applicants, and women earned approximately 58 percent less than men for equal work.

Haiti

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape of men and women but does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. The penalty for rape is a minimum of 10 years of forced labor. In the case of gang rape, the maximum penalty is lifelong forced labor. The crimes were rarely formally prosecuted and often settled under pressure from community and religious leaders, generally through a monetary settlement calling on the father to pay for prenatal care and birth costs, and more occasionally calling on the father to acknowledge the child as his own; forced marriages were far less prevalent. The law excuses a husband who kills his wife, her partner, or both found engaging in adultery in the husband’s home, but a wife who kills her husband under similar circumstances is subject to prosecution.

The law does not classify domestic violence against adults as a distinct crime. Women’s rights groups and human rights organizations reported domestic violence against women remained commonplace and had increased due to the mass displacements caused by gang violence, COVID-19 restrictions, and the August 14 earthquake. Judges often released suspects arrested for domestic violence and rape.

Victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence faced major obstacles in seeking legal justice, as well as in accessing protective services such as women’s shelters. Civil society organizations reported anecdotally that women were more likely to report cases of sexual and domestic violence since 2014, when the women’s movement achieved major policy victories, including the enactment of the Law on Responsible Fatherhood. Nonetheless, the same organizations reported that many victims still did not report such cases for reasons that included social pressure, fear, and a lack of logistical and financial resources. Due to familial responsibilities, victims were usually unable to dedicate the time necessary to follow through with legal proceedings. According to some civil society organizations, many local nonprofit organizations that provided shelter, medical services, psychological services, and legal assistance to victims had to reduce services due to a lack of funding. There were reports that in rural areas, criminal cases, including cases of sexual violence, were settled outside the justice system. In such cases local leaders often pressured family members to come to financial settlements with the accused to avoid social discord and embarrassment. According to judicial observers, prosecutors often encouraged such settlements.

According to a rapid gender assessment conducted by CARE International, gender-based violence became a far greater problem in areas affected by the August 14 earthquake. Seventy percent of women and men surveyed in affected areas said their fear of sexual violence had increased since the earthquake. Forty-three percent of community leaders and 75 percent of youth said sexual violence had increased since the earthquake, and 70 percent of organizations said women and girls were most at risk of sexual violence.

In Les Cayes Prison, where women have a section visible to men, women reported receiving abusive comments from male inmates and officers. During a 2019 prison mutiny, male inmates raped 10 women and one 15-year-old girl. The investigation conducted by the HNP Inspectorate General recommended the dismissal of a corrections officer, which was never implemented. The case was transferred to the Gonaives prosecutor’s office, where it remained an open investigation.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment, although the labor code states that men and women have the same rights and obligations. Observers indicated sexual harassment occurred frequently. Although authorities stated the government was opposed to sexual harassment, there were no formal governmental programs to combat it on a national scale.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

While stigma around seeking or accessing contraception significantly decreased over the past decade and women were far more knowledgeable about contraception, social and economic barriers remained. Cultural and historical barriers persisted in the use of the intrauterine device and contraception more generally, particularly cultural misconceptions and lack of knowledge of proper usage.

Many women and their families maintained a strong preference for giving birth at home with the assistance of matrones (traditional birth attendants) as opposed to giving birth in health facilities with the assistance of skilled birth attendants. The choice may be rooted in a desire for client-centered care, particularly for respectful maternity care, which was otherwise largely unavailable. The government did not allow state institutions to work openly with matrones, a practice that prevented them from acquiring the skills needed to serve as skilled birth attendants.

The government has protocols governing the provision of service to survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception is part of a mandatory package of services for the clinical management of rape cases, according to government protocols on the handling of rape cases. Emergency contraceptives were available, although health providers noted they were not always distributed equitably. The Ministry of Health was responsible for maintaining these protocols and practices; however, donors and NGO partners provided nearly all such care.

The World Health Organization estimated the maternal mortality rate at 480 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017. A major cause of maternal deaths was the government’s lack of support for matrones. Other reasons included geographic difficulties in access to health facilities and financial barriers to primary health care. Of the country’s 571 communal sections, 125 had no health facilities. The proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel was 42 percent. The adolescent birth rate for those ages 15-19 years was 140 per 1,000.

Discrimination: Women did not enjoy the same social and economic status as men, despite the constitutional requirement that women’s participation in national life and in public service (i.e., political candidates, elected officials, and civil servants) be at least 30 percent of the positions.

By law men and women have equal protections for economic participation. In practice, however, women faced barriers to accessing economic inputs and securing collateral for credit, information on lending programs, and other resources. Women were often classified into certain jobs such as secretarial or cleaning services, and they faced lower pay as well as barriers when attempting to compete for hiring or promotions on an equal footing with men. Women were largely viewed as more vulnerable to coercive and exploitive practices in the workplace, such as sexual harassment.

Honduras

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes all forms of rape of women or men, including spousal rape. The government considers rape a crime of public concern, and the state prosecutes rapists even if victims do not press charges. The penalties for rape range from nine to 13 years’ imprisonment. The law was not effectively enforced, and weak public institutional structures contributed to the inadequate enforcement.

The law does not criminalize domestic violence but provides penalties of up to 12 years in prison for violence against a family member, depending on the severity of the assault and aggravating circumstances. If a victim’s physical injuries do not reach the severity required to categorize the violence as a criminal act, the legal penalty for a first offense is a sentence of one to three months of community service. Survivors of domestic violence are entitled to certain protective measures, such as removing the abuser from the home and prohibiting the abuser from visiting the victim’s work or other frequently visited places. Abusers caught in the act may be detained for up to 24 hours as a preventive measure. The law provides a maximum sentence of three years in prison for disobeying a restraining order connected with the crime of violence against a woman.

Civil society groups reported that women often did not report domestic violence or withdrew charges because they feared, or were economically dependent on, the aggressor. In addition women experienced delays in accessing justice due to police who failed to process complaints in a timely manner or judicial system officials who deferred scheduling hearings. Institutions such as the National Women’s Institute attempted to enhance the government’s response to domestic violence by opening three additional women’s centers in the country. These efforts were insufficient due to limited political will, inadequate staffing, limited or no services in rural areas, absence of or inadequate training and awareness of domestic violence among police and other authorities, and a pattern of male-dominant culture and norms.

In cooperation with the UN Development Program (UNDP), the government operated consolidated reporting centers in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula where women could report crimes, seek medical and psychological attention, and receive other services. These reporting centers were in addition to the 298 government-operated women’s offices – one in each municipality – that provided a wide array of services to women, focusing on education, personal finance, health, social and political participation, environmental stewardship, and prevention of gender-based violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment, including in employment. Violators face penalties of one to three years in prison and possible suspension of their professional licenses, but the government did not effectively enforce the law.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Contraception supplies continued to be limited. The law prohibits the sale, distribution, and use of emergency contraception for any reason, including for survivors of sexual violence. The government provided victims of sexual violence access to other health-care services.

Although 74 percent of births were attended by skilled health care personnel, NGOs reported significant gaps in obstetric care, especially in rural areas. The World Bank reported in 2018 that the adolescent birth rate was 72 births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19.

Discrimination: Although the law accords women and men the same legal rights and status, including property rights in divorce cases, many women did not fully enjoy such rights due to barriers in access to justice and lack of information regarding legal protections. Most women in the workforce engaged in lower-status and lower-paying informal occupations, such as domestic service, without the benefit of legal protections. By law women have equal access to educational opportunities.

Hong Kong

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape against women, including spousal rape, but does not explicitly criminalize rape against men. Support organizations for sexual and domestic violence reported an increase in gender-based violence based on the larger volume of calls to their hotlines and requests for mental health-care assistance. Activists expressed concern that rape was underreported, especially within ethnic minority communities.

The law does not directly criminalize domestic violence, but the government regarded domestic violence against women as a serious concern. Abusers may be liable for criminal charges under laws on offenses against the person, sexual assault, and child mistreatment, depending on which act constituted domestic violence. The government effectively prosecuted violators under existing criminal violations.

The law allows survivors to seek a three-month injunction, extendable to six months, against an abuser. The ordinance covers abuse between spouses, heterosexual and homosexual cohabitants, former spouses or cohabitants, and immediate and extended family members. It protects victims younger than 18, allowing them to apply for an injunction in their own right, with the assistance of an adult guardian, against abuse by parents, siblings, and specified immediate and extended family members. The law also empowers courts to require that an abuser attend an antiviolence program. In cases in which the abuser caused bodily harm, the court may attach an arrest warrant to an existing injunction and extend the validity of both injunctions and arrest warrants to two years.

The government maintained programs provided intervention, counseling, and assistance to domestic violence survivors and abusers.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex, marital status, and pregnancy. The law applies to both men and women, and police generally enforced it effectively. There were multiple reports, however, of sexual harassment in housing, the workplace, and universities.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men. The SAR’s sexual discrimination ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sex or pregnancy status, and the law authorizes the Equal Opportunities Commission to work towards the elimination of discrimination and harassment as well as to promote equal opportunity for men and women. Although the government generally enforced these laws, women reportedly faced some discrimination in employment, salary, welfare, inheritance, and promotion.

Hungary

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women or men, including spousal rape, is illegal. Although there is no crime defined as rape, the equivalent crimes are sexual coercion and sexual violence. These crimes include the exploitation of a person who is unable to express his or her will. Penalties for sexual coercion and sexual violence range from one year in prison to 15 years in aggravated cases.

The criminal code includes “violence within partnership” (domestic violence) as a separate category of offense. Regulations extend prison sentences for assault (“light bodily harm”) to three years, while grievous bodily harm, violation of personal freedom, or coercion may be punishable by one to five years in prison, if committed against domestic persons.

By law police called to a scene of domestic violence may issue an emergency restraining order valid for three days in lieu of immediately filing charges, while courts may issue up to 60-day “preventive restraining orders” in civil cases, without the option to extend.

According to press reports citing official statistics, the number of registered cases of domestic violence increased by 60 percent since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Women’s rights groups asserted that there was no comprehensive state policy in place to address gender-based violence and that the lack of adequate professional training and adequate protocols to properly handle cases constituted systemic problems. Women’s rights NGOs continued to criticize the law for not placing sufficient emphasis on the accountability of perpetrators.

In May the president granted a partial pardon to a woman who in 2019 started serving a 10-year prison sentence for attempting to kill the father of her child, with whom she lived in an abusive relationship for years. The pardon decreased her sentence to five years.

Sexual Harassment: By law harassment of a sexual nature constitutes a violation of the equal treatment principle but is not a crime. In June independent media outlets reported that a high-ranking member of the defense forces sexually harassed a female subordinate. According to press reports, the woman reported the case, but the internal investigation was terminated. The woman also reported the case to the chief prosecutor’s office, where an investigation continued at year’s end.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Contraceptives were available but were not covered by the state health-care system, which limited access of marginalized groups living in poverty, including Romani women. Sterilization for family-planning (nonmedical) reasons was limited to persons who were older than 40 or already had three biological children.

In 2020 the government took over six fertility clinics and began providing state-subsidized assisted reproductive services (artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization), primarily tailored to support heterosexual married couples who experienced difficulty conceiving naturally. In June parliament adopted legislation that only state fertility clinics could provide assisted reproductive services from 2022. Observers believed the law would result in the closure of the remaining three private clinics. LGBTQI+ NGOs characterized access to assisted reproductive technologies as discriminatory against same-sex couples.

The government operated state-funded shelters and a hotline for survivors of crime, including sexual violence against women, but these did not provide specialized assistance and sexual and reproductive health services for survivors.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. There is no mandate for equal pay for equal work, and according to Eurostat data, on average men were paid 8.2 percent more than women in 2019, compared with 17.6 percent in 2010. Women’s rights groups criticized the lack of a comprehensive national strategy and public action plan for the promotion of equality between women and men, covering all important fields and topics of women’s rights, and considering all women irrespective of their family status and position.

Iceland

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Conviction for rape, including of men, carries a maximum penalty of 16 years in prison. Judges typically imposed sentences of two to three years. The law does not explicitly address spousal rape.

The law criminalizes domestic violence and specifies a maximum penalty of 16 years in prison for violations.

Survivors of domestic violence can request police to remove perpetrators physically from the home for up to four weeks at a time. Police can also impose a 72-hour restraining order to prevent abusers from coming into proximity with the victim, and courts can extend this restraining order for up to a year. The law entitles survivors of sex crimes to a lawyer to advise them of their rights and to help them pursue charges against the alleged assailants. As of August 26, approximately 74 women and 64 children had sought temporary lodging during the year at shelters for women in Reykjavik and Akureyri.

The police procedure for handling domestic violence states that law enforcement should report to the location of the incident. If responding officers are unable to enter the premises and have reasonable suspicion that the life of an individual inside might be threatened, they are allowed to use force to enter. If a child is present, an official from the child protective services must be called to the scene. All parties present are questioned, and the case is entered into the police database. If the situation warrants, the responding officers can arrest the perpetrator and assist the survivor in seeking medical care and offer guidance on legal recourse. The victim can request a temporary restraining order be imposed on the perpetrator. In some cases officers, child protective services, or the family of the victim can request the restraining order. If officers deem the survivor to be in danger following the imposed restraining order, they provide an emergency services call device.

The government helped finance the women’s shelters in Reykjavik and Akureyri, the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence, the rape crisis center of the national hospital, and other organizations that assisted victims of domestic or gender-based violence. These organizations offered services free of charge, regardless of the victim’s citizenship. In addition, the government assisted immigrant women in abusive relationships, offering emergency accommodation, counseling, and information on legal rights.

Sexual Harassment: Under the general penal code, sexual harassment is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years. In addition, the law on equal status defines sexual harassment more broadly as any type of unfair or offensive physical, verbal, or symbolic sexual behavior that is unwanted, affects the self-respect of the victim, and continues despite a clear indication that the behavior is undesired. The law requires employers and organization supervisors to make specific arrangements to prevent employees, students, and clients from becoming victims of gender-based or sexual harassment. The law establishes fines for violations, but more severe penalties could be applicable under other laws.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive services for sexual violence survivors, both on-site at hospitals, and via government-funded nongovernmental organizations that provide free counselling and psychiatric services. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men according to the constitution and the law. Although the government enforced the law effectively, employment discrimination occurred.

India

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape in most cases, but marital rape is not illegal when the woman is older than 15. According to legal experts, the law does not criminalize rape of adult men. Rape of minors is covered by the gender-neutral Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO). Official statistics reported rape as one of the country’s fastest-growing crimes, prompted at least in part by the increasing willingness of survivors to report rapes, but observers believed the number of rapes remained vastly underreported.

Law enforcement and legal recourse for rape survivors were inadequate, and the judicial system was unable to address the problem effectively.  Police sometimes worked to reconcile rape survivors and their attackers.  In some cases they encouraged female rape survivors to marry their attackers.

The NGO International Center for Research on Women noted low conviction rates in rape cases was one of the main reasons sexual violence continued unabated and at times unreported. NGOs observed the length of trials, lack of victim support, and inadequate protection of witnesses and survivors remained major concerns and were more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government sought to expedite cases involving women by setting up more than a thousand fast-track special courts to handle pending rape cases. In addition, several high courts have also directed state governments to establish more fast-track courts to promptly dispose of pending rape cases.

Civil society organizations provided awareness and survivor-centered, nonstigmatizing, confidential and free care to victims of violence and facilitate referrals to tertiary care, social welfare, and legal services. Some also provided short-term shelter for women and child survivors of rape. These services were intended to encourage women and children to come forward and report cases.

Additionally, the central government implemented interventions to improve the safety and security of women while reporting violence. This includes centers for reporting and accessing health support, women help desks at police stations to facilitate reporting, emergency response support system via a mobile application for reporting emergencies, and training programs for police, prosecutors, medical officers, and the judiciary to respond to victims in compassionate and respectful ways.

Rape continued to be a persistent problem, including gang rape, rape of minors, rape against lower-caste women or women from religious and nonreligious minority communities by upper-caste men, and rape by government officials.

The minimum mandatory punishment for rape is 10 years’ imprisonment. The minimum sentence for the rape of a girl younger than age 16 is between 20 years’ and life imprisonment; the minimum sentence of gang rape of a girl younger than 12 is either life imprisonment or the death penalty. The Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offenses monitors sexual assault investigations. According to latest government data, 77 cases of rape per day were reported across the country in 2020.

On April 7, a 24-year-old Delhi woman was gang raped by five men in Gurugram, Haryana. The woman was raped repeatedly and left near Farrukhnagar, Haryana. To date, no suspects have been arrested.

On June 11, two minor tribal girls in Assam’s Kokrajhar District were found hanging from a tree after they were raped and killed. Police arrested seven suspects.

On August 1, a nine-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly raped, suffocated to death, and her body cremated in New Delhi. Police arrested and charged four suspects, two of whom admitted to raping her because she was a Dalit.

Women in areas such as in Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern states, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh, as well as vulnerable Dalit or tribal women, were often victims of rape or threats of rape. National crime statistics indicated Dalit women were disproportionately victimized. Domestic violence continued to be a problem. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown led to increased instances of domestic violence. Women and children were more vulnerable due to loss of livelihood of the perpetrator and the family being forced to remain indoors, where victims were locked in with their abusers with limited means to escape or access to resources.

Local authorities made efforts to address the safety of women. The NCRB’s 2021 Crime in India report revealed that overall crime against women fell by 8 percent from 405,326 cases in 2019 to 371,503 cases in 2020. West Bengal and Odisha reported the highest increase in crimes against women while Uttar Pradesh recorded a 17 percent decline in registered cases. Madhya Pradesh reported the largest number of domestic violence cases while Rajasthan reported the highest number of rapes.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No national law addresses the practice of FGM/C. According to human rights groups and media reports, between 70 and 90 percent of Dawoodi Bohras, a population of approximately one million persons concentrated in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Delhi, practiced FGM/C.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law forbids the acceptance of marriage dowries, but many families continued to offer and accept dowries, and dowry disputes remained a serious problem. NCRB data showed a total of 7,045 dowry-related deaths in 2020 as compared with 7,141 in 2019. The highest number of cases were registered in Uttar Pradesh with 2,302 victims. Most states employed dowry prohibition officers. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling mandates all trial courts to charge defendants in dowry death cases with murder.

Acid attacks against men and women continued to cause death and permanent disfigurement. On April 16, a man from Patiala threw acid on his wife for not giving birth to a son. The woman sustained burns on nearly 58 percent of her body in the acid attack. Police charged the man with attempted murder and voluntarily causing grievous hurt.

On May 21, a woman contracted to have acid thrown on her boyfriend after he rejected her marriage proposal. Police arrested the perpetrator.

So-called honor killings remained a problem, especially in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana; they were usually attributable to the victim marrying against his or her family’s wishes.

In August, Gwalior police in Madhya Pradesh arrested the father and brother of a 22-year-old woman found hanging at her home after a reported “honor killing.” Police also charged the woman’s uncle and two cousins with murder, as the family had opposed her choice to marry outside of her community.

Andhra Pradesh police registered a case of suspicious death as murder in response to a complaint that the parents of an 18-year-old girl allegedly killed and cremated her when she refused to end her relationship with a man of another caste.

The Telangana High Court questioned police statistics that reported only four “honor killings” and three cases of assault on individuals who married outside of their caste in the preceding four years in the state. A social activist filed a petition alleging 36 “honor killings” took place in the state in recent years.

There were reports women and girls in the devadasi system of symbolic marriages to Hindu deities (a form of so-called ritual prostitution) were victims of rape or sexual abuse at the hands of priests and temple patrons, including sex trafficking. This practice was found in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, and almost always targeted girls from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. NGOs suggested families exploited some girls from lower castes to mitigate household financial burdens and the prospect of marriage dowries. The practice deprived girls of their education and reproductive rights and subjected them to stigma and discrimination.

Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra have legislation that prohibits the devadasi system and provides rehabilitation services to women and girls affected by the practice. Enforcement of these laws remained lax.

In February police rescued a 19-year-old girl from Karnataka after she alerted them to her parents’ plan to force her into the devadasi system. Officials noted the victim’s mother was a former devadasi and insisted her daughter join the practice.

No federal law addresses accusations of witchcraft; however, authorities may use other legal provisions as an alternative for an individual accused of witchcraft. The NCRB reported 88 deaths with witchcraft listed as the motive in 2020. Madhya Pradesh registered 17 cases of murder against those accused of witchcraft. Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Assam, and Jharkhand have laws criminalizing accusing others of witchcraft.

On March 9, a woman’s dismembered body was found buried in Jharkhand. According to police, villagers suspected the woman of practicing witchcraft.

On May 25, a group of villagers in Assam’s Baksa District beat a 50-year-old tribal man to death. Police suspected a case of witch hunting and detained five persons.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a serious problem. Authorities required all state departments and institutions with more than 50 employees to operate committees to prevent and address sexual harassment, often referred to as “eve teasing.” By law sexual harassment includes one or more unwelcome acts or behavior, such as physical contact, a request for sexual favors, making sexually suggestive remarks, or showing pornography.

Reproductive Rights: There were reports of coerced and involuntary sterilization. The government promoted female sterilization as a form of family planning for decades. Some women, especially poor and lower-caste women, reportedly were pressured by their husbands and families to have tubal ligations or hysterectomies. The government provided monetary compensation for the wage loss, transportation costs, drugs and dressing, and follow-up visits to women accepting contraceptive methods, including voluntary sterilization. There were no formal restrictions on access to other forms of family planning; however, despite recent efforts to expand the range of contraceptive choices, voluntary sterilization remained the preferred method due to the costs and limited availability of alternative contraceptive choices.

Policies and guidelines that penalized families with more than two children were not widely enforced but remained in place in various states. Certain states continued to maintain quotas for government jobs and subsidies for adults with no more than two children. For example, Assam linked a two-child norm to accessing state government benefits and running for certain offices.

Many states promoted female sterilization as a family planning method, which resulted in risky, substandard procedures and limited access to nonpermanent methods. The central government does not have the authority to regulate state public health policies. Some women, particularly poor and lower-caste women, were reportedly pressured to have tubal ligations, hysterectomies, or other forms of sterilization.

The government recognized the role of health-care professionals in treating survivors of sexual violence and implemented protocols that meet international standards for such medical care. Government directives instruct health facilities to ensure survivors of all forms of sexual violence receive immediate access to health care services, including emergency contraception, police protection, emergency shelter, forensic services, and referrals for legal aid and other services. Implementation of the guidelines was uneven, however, due to limited resources and social stigma.

In February the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released the Sample Registration Report for Maternal Mortality Rates between 2016 and 2018, which estimated that the maternal mortality ratio declined to 113 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016-18, compared with 130 such deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014-16. The report indicated Assam’s maternal mortality rate, at 215 per 100,000 live births, was the highest in the country, while Kerala recorded the lowest maternal mortality ratio at 43 per 100,000 live births.

Care received by women, especially those from marginalized and low-income groups, at public health facilities was often inadequate, contributing to a reluctance to seek treatment. Government initiatives resulted in a significant increase in institutional births, but there were reports that health facilities continued to be overburdened, underequipped, and undersupplied.

Policies penalizing families with more than two children remained in place in seven states, but some authorities did not enforce them. There were reports these policies created pressure on women with more than two children to use contraception, including permanent methods such as sterilization, or even termination of subsequent pregnancies.

To counter sex selection, almost all states introduced “girl child promotion” plans to promote the education and well-being of girls; some plans required a certificate of sterilization for the parents to collect benefits.

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace and requires equal pay for equal work, but employers reportedly often paid women less than men for the same job, discriminated against women in employment and credit applications, and promoted women less frequently than men. The government did not effectively enforce discrimination laws.

Many tribal land systems, including in Bihar, deny tribal women the right to own land. Other laws or customs relating to the ownership of assets and land accord women little control over land use, retention, or sale.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: The law bans sex determination tests, the use of all technologies for the purpose of selecting a fetus’s gender, and sex-based abortions; however, NGOs claimed the practice of abortion based on sex was widely practiced across the country despite government efforts to enforce the legislation. This resulted in a sex ratio of 889 females per 1,000 males (or 112 males per 100 females) per the 2011 census.

States implement “girl child promotion” programs to counter prenatal sex selection. In 2015 the national government launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao program to arrest the decline in the child sex ratio. According to government data, the sex ratio at birth improved from 918 girls per 1,000 boys in 2014-15 (109 boys per 100 girls) to 934 girls per 1,000 boys in 2019-20 (107 boys per 100 girls).

According to media reports, fear of giving birth to a girl child drove some women toward sex-selective abortion or attempts to sell baby girls.

Indonesia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, domestic abuse, and other forms of violence against women. The legal definition of rape covers only forced penetration of sexual organs, and filing a case requires a witness or other corroboration. Rape is punishable by four to 14 years in prison and a substantial fine. While the government imprisoned some perpetrators of rape and attempted rape, sentences were often light, and many convicted rapists received the minimum sentence. Marital rape is not a specific criminal offense in law but is covered under “forced sexual intercourse” in national legislation on domestic violence and may be punished with criminal penalties.

The National Commission on Violence against Women reported receiving 2,300 complaints of violence against women in 2020, up from 1,400 in 2019 – the Commission attributed the upswing in part to social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as increased willingness of victims to report incidents. On August 24, the commission reported that in the first six months of the year, it received more than 2,500 complaints – the majority of which were domestic violence incidents. Civil society activists underscored that many cases went unreported, as many victims did not report abuse because of fear of social stigma, shame, and lack of support from friends and family.

On June 13, a 16-year-old girl was detained for questioning in West Halmahera Regency, North Maluku Province and taken to the South Jailolo Police Station. While detained the girl was raped by a police officer at the station who threatened her with jail time if she refused to have sex with him. On June 23, North Maluku police reported that the officer had been dishonorably discharged from the police and arrested pending trial for rape.

Civil society organizations operated integrated service centers for women and children in all 34 provinces and approximately 436 districts and provided counseling and support services of varying quality to victims of violence. Larger provincial service centers provided more comprehensive psychosocial services. living in rural areas or districts with no such center had difficulty receiving support services, and some centers were only open for six hours a day, not the required 24 hours. Nationwide, police operated “special crisis rooms” or “women’s desks” where female officers received reports from female and child victims of sexual assault and trafficking and where victims found temporary shelter.

In addition to 32 provincial-level antitrafficking-in-persons task forces, the government has 251 task forces at the local (district or city) level, which were usually chaired by the head of the local integrated service center or of the local social affairs office.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C reportedly occurred regularly. There were no recent reliable data on FGM/C. Using 2013 data, UNICEF estimated that 49 percent of girls aged 11 and younger underwent some form of FGM/C, with the majority of girls subjected to the procedure before they were six months old. National law prohibiting this practice has never been tested in court, as no one has ever been charged for performing FGM/C. The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection continued to lead official efforts to prevent FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibiting indecent public acts serves as the basis for criminal complaints stemming from sexual harassment. Violations are punishable by imprisonment of up to two years and eight months and a small fine. Civil society and NGOs reported sexual harassment was a problem countrywide.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. NGOs reported that social stigma and bullying of female students related to menstruation occurred, and that female students had inadequate access to menstrual education, hygiene products, and hygienic facilities at schools. Such inadequacy prevented female students from appropriately managing menstruation, frequently resulting in absenteeism from school during menstruation. (See the Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting subsection for additional information.)

The law recognizes the basic right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, but various regulations undercut its effective implementation for women. By law the government must provide information and education on reproductive health that do not conflict with religious or moral norms. NGOs reported that government officials attempted to restrict the provision of reproductive health information related to contraceptives and other services deemed as conflicting with religious or moral norms.

While condoms were widely available, regulations require husbands’ permission for married women to obtain other forms of birth control. Local NGOs reported that unmarried women found it difficult to obtain contraceptives through health-care systems. Media and NGOs reported such women were stigmatized, including by health-care staff who repeatedly asked about marital status and sometimes turned away unmarried women seeking routine procedures such as pap smears.

The UN Population Fund reported that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted access to family planning and reproductive services. The National Agency for Population and Family Planning reported that approximately 10 percent of its clients dropped out of its programs during the pandemic.

NGOs reported that reproductive health services were not consistently provided to victims of sexual violence. NGOs reported rape victims sometimes experienced difficulties obtaining emergency contraceptives from medical providers.

According to 2017 World Health Organization data, the maternal mortality rate was 177 per 100,000 live births, down from 184 in 2016. The Ministry of Health and NGOs identified several factors contributing to the maternal mortality rate, including lack of training for midwives and traditional birth attendants, continued lack of access to basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care, and limited availability of essential maternal and neonatal medications. Hospitals and health centers did not always properly manage complicated procedures, and financial barriers and the limited availability of qualified health personnel caused problems for referrals in case of complications. A woman’s economic status, level of education, and age at first marriage also affected maternal mortality.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men in family, labor, property, and nationality law, but it does not grant widows equal inheritance rights. The law states that women’s work outside the home must not conflict with their role in improving family welfare and educating the younger generation. The law designates the man as the head of the household.

Divorce is available to both men and women. Many divorced women received no alimony, since there is no system to enforce such payments. The law requires a divorced woman to wait 40 days before remarrying; a man may remarry immediately.

The National Commission on Violence against Women viewed many local laws and policies as discriminatory. These included “morality laws” and antiprostitution regulations.

In January media widely reported that a Christian female student was forced to wear a hijab in Padang, West Sumatra. In May the Supreme Court invalidated a government ban issued in February on such school regulations, stating that it conflicted with laws regarding the national education system, protection of children, and local government. A March report by Human Rights Watch detailed widespread and intense social pressure for women to wear hijabs in schools and government offices, in addition to requirements in official regulations. Women faced discrimination in the workplace, both in hiring and in gaining fair compensation (see section 7.d.).

Iran

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and subject to strict penalties, including death, but it remained a problem. The law considers sex within marriage consensual by definition and, therefore, does not address spousal rape, including in cases of forced marriage. Most rape victims likely did not report the crime because they feared official retaliation or punishment for having been raped, including charges of indecency, immoral behavior, or adultery, which carries the death penalty. Rape victims also feared societal reprisal or ostracism. There were reports that approximately 80 percent of rape cases went unreported.

For a conviction of rape, the law requires four Muslim men or a combination of three men and two women or two men and four women, to have witnessed a rape. A woman or man found making a false accusation of rape is subject to 80 lashes.

The law does not prohibit domestic violence. Authorities considered spousal and intrafamilial abuse a private matter and seldom discussed it publicly.

An April 2020 IRNA article noted a “dramatic increase” in domestic violence-related telephone calls to public social welfare hotlines. The State Welfare Organization sent a public text message the same day highlighting the existence of the hotlines. Calls to the hotlines reportedly doubled after the text message was sent, according to a government official. In a call with an expatriate media outlet, women’s rights activist Shahla Entesari also reported higher rates of domestic violence during pandemic-related lockdowns in the country.

In previous years assailants conducted “acid attacks” in which they threw acid capable of severe disfiguration at women perceived to have violated various “morality” laws or practices. Although the Guardian Council reportedly approved a law increasing sentences for the perpetrators of these attacks, the government instead continued to prosecute individual activists seeking stronger government accountability for the attacks. In October 2020 a court sentenced Aliyeh Motalebzadeh to two years in prison for “conspiracy against state security” for advocating for women who were victims of acid attacks. Motalebzadeh was a member of the “One Million Signatures” campaign to change discriminatory laws against women. Also in October 2020 authorities arrested Negar Masoudi for holding a photograph exhibition featuring victims of acid attacks and for advocating to restrict the sale of acid.

According to Iran International, on August 8, a man in the city of Orumiyeh allegedly used his motor vehicle to run over two women, seriously injuring one of the women, after accusing them of “bad hijab,” interpreted by some as not appropriately following the Islamic dress code.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law criminalizes FGM/C and states, “The cutting or removing of the two sides of female genitalia leads to diya equal to half the full amount of diya for the woman’s life.”

Little recent data were available on the practice inside the country, although older data and media reports suggested it was most prevalent in Hormozgan, Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan Provinces and was inflicted on girls ages five through eight, primarily in Shafi’i Sunni communities.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: There were reports of killings motivated by “honor” or other harmful traditional practices during the year. There are no official statistics kept in the country concerning honor killings, but according to academic articles and university thesis estimates cited by the daily newspaper Ebtekar, every year between 375 and 450 such killings occur, in which mostly women are killed by their male relatives – including their husbands, fathers, and brothers – in the name of preserving the family’s “honor.”

The law reduces punitive measures for fathers and other family members who are convicted of murder or physically harming children in domestic violence or “honor killings.” If a man is found guilty of murdering his daughter, the punishment is between three and 10 years in prison rather than the normal death sentence or payment of diyeh for homicide cases, because fathers (but not mothers) are considered legal guardians and are exempt from capital punishment for murdering their children.

In June 2020 Reza Ashrafi reportedly beheaded his 14-year-old daughter, Romina Ashrafi, with a farming sickle because she had “run off” with her 29-year-old Sunni Muslim boyfriend. In June 2020, in response to a national outcry over Ashrafi’s killing, the Guardian Council approved a law making it a crime to abuse emotionally or physically or abandon a child, but it left unchanged the maximum sentence of 10 years for a father convicted of murdering his daughter. Observers noted the Guardian Council had rejected three previous iterations of the bill. In August 2020 a court reportedly convicted and sentenced Ashrafi’s father to nine years in prison, sparking further outrage at the leniency of the sentence. Ashrafi’s mother said she planned to appeal the sentence to seek a stricter penalty, but there were no reported updates to the case.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits physical contact between unrelated men and women. There were no reliable data on the extent of sexual harassment, but women’s and human rights observers reported that sexual harassment was the norm in many workplaces. In April multiple women, including model and actress Boshra Dastournezhad, came forward on social media sites such as Clubhouse and Instagram to accuse singer and songwriter Mohsen Namjoo of sexual harassment and sexual assault. They circulated a petition calling on media outlets to ban his presence until the allegations were investigated. According to IranWire, on April 18, Namjoo apparently apologized for the sexual harassment accusations but denied other sexual assault allegations via his YouTube channel. The incident fueled online debate regarding victims’ accounts of sexual harassment and assault.

According to IranWire, on October 12, Tehran police chief Hossein Rahimi announced that bookstore owner Keyvan Emamverdi confessed to raping 300 women after 30 women filed legal complaints against him. Police stated he would be charged with “corruption on earth,” a capital offense. On November 15, Emamverdi’s trial began before a revolutionary court in Tehran, where he reportedly denied all charges.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

It is illegal for a single woman to access contraception, although most single women had access to contraception, particularly in urban areas. Government health care previously included full free access to contraception and family planning for married couples. In 2012 on the supreme leader’s orders, the government ended the Family and Population Planning Program. On November 16, President Raisi signed into law the “rejuvenation of the population and support of the family” bill, which directs authorities to prioritize population growth. These policies include measures such as outlawing voluntary sterilization and banning the free distribution of contraceptives by the public health-care system. The law also stipulates that content on family planning in university textbooks should be replaced with materials on an “Islamic-Iranian lifestyle,” with a framework drawn up in cooperation with religious seminaries and the Islamic Propaganda Organization. In January according to a report by Iran International, the Ministry of Health banned health centers in nomadic tribal areas from providing contraceptives to women. On November 16, UN human rights experts “urge[d] the Government to immediately repeal [the law] and to take measures to end the criminalization of abortion and to ensure that all women can access all necessary health services, including sexual and reproductive care, in a manner that is safe, affordable, and consistent with their human rights.”

The government did not provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was not available as part of clinical management of rape.

According to human rights organizations, an increase in child marriage – due in part to a government “marriage loan” program providing financial relief to poor families who want to marry off their girls – was likely adversely affecting the quality of health care for such girls and increasing maternal mortality rates. The practice of female genital mutilation, which primarily occurs on girls ages five through eight in Shafi’i Sunni communities, was associated reportedly with increased obstetric problems and may increase maternal mortality rates.

Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal protection for women under the law in conformity with its interpretation of Islam. The government did not enforce the law, and provisions in the law, particularly sections dealing with family and property law, discriminate against women. Judicial harassment, intimidation, detention, and smear campaigns significantly hindered the ability of civil society organizations to fight for and protect women’s rights.

In June 2020 the president issued a decree enacting into law an amendment to the country’s civil code that allows Iranian women married to foreign men to transmit citizenship to their children (see section 2.g, Stateless Persons and section 6, Children). The government does not recognize marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, irrespective of their citizenship. The law states that a virgin woman or girl wishing to wed needs the consent of her father or grandfather or the court’s permission.

The law permits a man to have as many as four wives and an unlimited number of temporary wives (sigheh), based on a Shia custom under which couples may enter a limited-time civil and religious contract that outlines the union’s conditions. The law does not grant women equal rights to multiple husbands.

A woman has the right to divorce if her husband signs a contract granting that right; cannot provide for his family; has violated the terms of their marriage contract; or is a drug addict, insane, or impotent. A husband is not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife. The law recognizes a divorced woman’s right to part of shared property and to alimony. These laws were not always enforced.

The law provides divorced women preference in custody for children up to age seven, but fathers maintain legal guardianship rights over the child and must agree on many legal aspects of the child’s life (such as issuing travel documents, enrolling in school, or filing a police report). After the child reaches age seven, the father is granted custody unless he is proven unfit to care for the child.

Women sometimes received disproportionate punishment for crimes such as adultery, including death sentences. Islamic law retains provisions that equate a woman’s testimony in a court of law to one-half that of a man’s and value a woman’s life as one-half that of a man’s life. By law the diyeh paid in the death of a woman is one-half the amount paid in the death of a man, except for car accident insurance payments. According to a CHRI report, in 2019 the government declared equality between men and women in the payment of blood money. Per the Supreme Court ruling, the amount paid for the intentional or unintentional physical harm to a woman remains one-half the blood money paid for harm to a man, but the remaining difference would be paid from a publicly funded trust.

Women have access to primary and advanced education. Quotas and other restrictions nonetheless limited women’s admissions to certain fields and degree programs.

The Statistical Center of Iran reported that the overall unemployment rate in the second quarter of the year was 8.8 percent. Unemployment of women in the country was twice as high as it was of men. Overall female participation in the job market was 18.9 percent, according to the Global Gender Gap 2021 report. Women reportedly earned significantly less than men for the same work.

Women continued to face discrimination in home and property ownership, as well as in access to financing. In cases of inheritance, male heirs receive twice the inheritance of their female counterparts. The government enforced gender segregation in many public spaces. Women must ride in a reserved section on public buses and enter some public buildings, universities, and airports through separate entrances.

The law provides that a woman who appears in public without appropriate attire, such as a cloth scarf over the head (hijab) and a long jacket (manteau), or a large full-length cloth covering (chador), may be sentenced to flogging and fined. Absent a clear legal definition of “appropriate attire” or of the related punishment, women (and men) were subjected to the opinions of various disciplinary and security force members, police, and judges.

Authorities continued to arrest women for violating dress requirements, and courts applied harsh sentences. In February an appeals court upheld sentences of 16 to 23 years for Yasaman Aryani, her mother Monireh Arabshahi, and Mojgan Keshavarz for “spreading propaganda against the system” and “inciting corruption and prostitution.” They were arrested after posting a video for International Women’s Day in 2019 during which they walked without headscarves through a Tehran metro train, handing flowers to female passengers. As of September 19, all three women remained in prison.

In May 2020 the lawyer for imprisoned activist Saba Kord Afshari said on Twitter that judicial authorities had reinstated a seven and one-half-year prison sentence for “corruption and prostitution” against his client without explanation. An appeals court had previously dropped that charge against Kord Afshari, who was also found guilty of “gathering and conspiring” and “spreading propaganda” related to videos she posted to social media in which she walked without a hijab and stated her opposition to compulsory dress requirements. Kord Afshari’s cumulative sentence reverted to 15 years with the reinstated portion of the sentence. In February 2020 Kord Afshari’s mother, Raheleh Ahmadi, began serving a two-year sentence for “national security” crimes related to advocacy on behalf of her daughter. Human rights groups reported both mother and daughter were denied requested medical treatment and furlough during the year. Kord Afshari was “exiled” to Ward 6 of Qarchak Prison in Varamin in late January, where reportedly authorities beat her and held her alongside violent criminals. She ended her hunger strike in May. Ahmadi reportedly suffered spinal cord damage in Evin Prison upon hearing of her daughter’s transfer. As of September 19, both women remained in prison.

In a February 2020 letter to Iranian authorities, the world soccer governing body International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) insisted women be allowed to attend all soccer matches in larger numbers than the government previously permitted. In October authorities reversed their earlier announcement that 10,000 vaccinated spectators – including women – could watch Iran play in a FIFA qualifying match and allowed no spectators into the stadium.

As noted by the former UNSR and other organizations, female athletes were traditionally barred from participating in international tournaments, either by the country’s sport agencies or by their husbands. There were, however, cases throughout the year of female athletes being permitted to travel internationally to compete.

Iraq

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and sexual assault of women, men, and children, but does not specifically mention spousal rape; it permits a sentence not exceeding 15 years, or life imprisonment if the victim dies. The rape provisions of the law do not define, clarify, or otherwise describe “consent,” leaving the term up to judicial interpretation. The law requires authorities to drop a rape case if the perpetrator marries the survivor, with a provision protecting against divorce within the first three years of marriage. The survivor’s family sometimes agreed to this arrangement to avoid the social stigma attached to rape. There were no reliable estimates of the incidence of rape or information on the effectiveness of government enforcement of the law.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, UNAMI reported a significant increase in the reports of rape, domestic violence, spousal abuse, immolation and self-immolation, self-inflicted injuries due to spousal abuse, sexual harassment of minors, and suicide due to increased household tensions because of COVID-19 lockdowns, as well as economic hardship due to the country’s declining economy. In February the Federal Police stated that domestic violence increased by nearly 20 percent because of the pandemic.

In the absence of legislation to combat domestic violence, each relevant central government ministry devised its own way to respond to domestic violence. Although the constitution prohibits “all forms of violence and abuse in the family,” the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. Men may discipline their wives and children “within certain limits prescribed by law or by custom” and reduced sentences for violence or killing are applicable if the perpetrator had “honorable motives” or if the perpetrator caught his wife or female relative in the act of adultery. Domestic violence remained a pervasive problem.

Harassment of legal personnel who sought to pursue domestic violence cases under laws criminalizing assault, as well as a lack of trained police and judicial personnel, further hampered efforts to prosecute perpetrators.

The central government and KRG also struggled to address the physical and mental trauma endured by women who lived under ISIS rule. The Yezidi Survivors’ Law, passed by the COR in March, mandates a new Survivors’ Affairs Directorate under the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to provide psychosocial support to victims of ISIS, including women and members of minority groups.

The Ministry of Interior maintained 16 family protection units under police authority, located in separate buildings at police stations around the country, designed to resolve domestic disputes and establish safe refuges for victims of sexual or gender-based violence. These units reportedly tended to prioritize family reconciliation over victim protection and lacked the capacity to support survivors. NGOs stated that survivors of domestic violence feared approaching the family protection units because they suspected that police would inform their families of their testimony. Some tribal leaders in the south reportedly banned their members from seeking redress through police family protection units, claiming domestic abuse was a family matter. The family protection units in most locations did not operate shelters.

KRG law criminalizes domestic violence, including physical and psychological abuse, threats of violence, and spousal rape. The KRG implemented the provisions of the law and maintained a special police force to investigate cases of gender-based violence and a family reconciliation committee within the judicial system, but local NGOs reported these programs were not effective at combating gender-based violence.

Throughout the year the KRG General Directorate for Combatting Violence against Women and Families provided workshops and seminars to its law-enforcement officers and awareness campaigns about the impact of domestic violence on individuals and society. There was also a 24/7 hotline that received reports of violence: an average of 11,000 calls annually. Furthermore, the directorate, in coordination with the UN Population Fund, developed a mobile phone app to facilitate access to the hotline, which provided access to live consultations with psychologists and psychiatrists.

Two privately operated shelters and four KRG Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs-operated shelters provided some protection and assistance for female survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking. Space was limited, and NGOs reported psychological and therapeutic services were poor. NGOs played a key role in providing services, including legal aid, to survivors of domestic violence, who often received no assistance from the government. Instead of using legal remedies, authorities frequently mediated between women and their families so that the women could return to their homes. Other than marrying or returning to their families, which often resulted in further victimization by the family or community, there were few options for women accommodated at shelters.

The Council of Ministers of the Kurdistan Region formed a judicial body after ISIS took control of the Sinjar Region and surrounding areas to investigate and document claims of ISIS crimes including with recorded testimonies of victims, survivors, claimants, and witnesses. Cases filed with the courts through November totaled 4,206, including 1,191 cases that pertained specifically to ISIS crimes committed against women during the period of ISIS’s control over Sinjar district and other areas in the Mosul Province. Similarly, in Duhok Province an additional 2,036 cases of ISIS violence against women were filed with the courts; the cases were elevated to the level of the International Criminal Court.

The KRG also maintained a genocide center in Duhok for treatment, support, and rehabilitation for women who survived ISIS captivity, including investigating and documenting rape crimes; provides health and psychological services within camps; and ran a center through the KRG Directorate of Yezidi Affairs in the Ministry of Religious and Endowment Affairs for the rehabilitation of approximately 163 liberated women.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): NGOs and the KRG reported the practice of FGM/C persisted in the IKR, particularly in rural areas of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Kirkuk Provinces, despite a ban on the practice in IKR law. Rates of FGM/C, however, reportedly continued to decline. NGOs attributed the reduction in FGM/C to the criminalization of the practice and sustained public outreach activities by civil society groups. FGM/C was not common outside the IKR.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law permitted “honor” as a lawful defense in violence against women, and so-called honor killings remained a serious problem throughout the country. A provision of the law limits a sentence for a murder conviction to a maximum of three years in prison if a man is on trial for killing his wife or a female dependent due to suspicion that the victim was committing adultery or engaged in sex outside of marriage. UNAMI reported that several hundred women died each year from honor killings. Some families reportedly arranged honor killings to appear as suicides.

The KRG Ministry of Interior’s Directorate General of Combating Violence against Women confirmed 19 honor killing cases in the IKR as of September.

There were reports that women and girls were sexually exploited through so-called temporary, or pleasure, marriages, under which a man gives the family of the girl or woman dowry money in exchange for permission to “marry” her for a specified period. Young women, widowed or orphaned by ISIS offensives, were especially vulnerable to this type of exploitation. In similar cases NGOs reported some families opted to marry off their underage daughters in exchange for dowry money, believing the marriage was genuine, only to have the girl returned to them months later, sometimes pregnant.

Government officials and international and local NGOs also reported that the traditional practice of nahwa, where a cousin, uncle, or other male relative of any woman may forbid or terminate her marriage to someone outside the family, remained a problem, particularly in southern provinces. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called for an end to nahwas and fasliya (where women are traded to settle tribal disputes), but these traditions continued, especially in areas where tribal influence outweighed that of government institutions.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, including in the workplace. Penalties for sexual harassment include fines of up to only 30 dinars (approximately two cents), imprisonment, or both, not to exceed three months for a first-time offender. The law provides relief from penalties if unmarried participants marry. No information was available regarding the effectiveness of government enforcement, but penalties were very low. In most areas there were few or no government-provided women’s shelters, information, support hotlines, and little or no sensitivity training for police. Refugees and IDPs reported regular sexual harassment, both in camps and cities.

Female political candidates suffered harassment online and on social media, including posting of fake, nude, or salacious photographs and videos meant to harm their campaigns and their reputations – often labeled as “staining their family’s honor.” The Iraqi Women’s Network NGO cited several cases of women candidates being targeted because of their gender during the election campaign. Local human rights NGOs stated that the harassment was particularly targeted against independent women candidates or those from new political parties that lacked recourse or political connections to government security services.

During the year NGOs reported security personnel asked female IDPs for sexual favors in exchange for provision of basic needs. This was especially prevalent among female IDPs previously living under ISIS control. In other cases criminal gangs exploited female IDPs and forced them into commercial sex.

The KRG’s High Council of Women’s Affairs and Directorate General of Combating Violence Against Women (DCVAW) stated there was a spike in online harassment of girls and women. Per the DCVAW, 75 percent of gender-based violence cases resulted from social networking sites.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Hospitals provided menstrual health services free to women.

Various methods of contraception were widely available, including in the IKR; however, women in urban areas generally had greater access than those in rural parts of the country. A married woman could not be prescribed or use contraception without the consent of her husband. Unmarried single women were unable to obtain birth control. Divorced or widowed women did not have this same restriction.

Due to general insecurity in the country and attendant economic difficulties, many women received inadequate medical care. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that in some provinces the work of reproductive health and pregnancy care units, as well as health-awareness campaigns, had ceased almost entirely because of COVID-19’s impact on the health-care system.

In the IKR the KRG Ministry of Health reported that survivors of sexual violence received treatment from provincial health departments and emergency rooms. Judges, however, rarely considered forensic evidence that was collected. The government stated it provided full services for survivors of sexual violence and rape in all provinces because the law requires that survivors receive full health care and treatment. Emergency contraceptives were available as part of the clinical management of rape through government services and in private clinics, although advocates who worked with survivors reported many barriers to women accessing those contraceptives, as well as significant gaps in service delivery.

Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for equality between men and women, the law does not provide women the same legal status and rights as men. Criminal, family, religious, personal status, labor, and inheritance laws discriminate against women. experienced discrimination in such areas as marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing.

For example in a court of law, a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man in some cases and is equal in other cases. The law generally permits women to initiate divorce proceedings against their spouses but does not entitle a divorced woman to alimony other than child support or in some cases two years’ financial maintenance; in other cases the woman must return all or part of her dowry or otherwise pay a sum of money to the husband. Under the law the father is the guardian of the children, but a divorced mother may be granted custody of her children until age 10, extendable by a court up to age 15, at which time the children may choose with which parent they wish to live.

All recognized religious groups have their own personal status courts responsible for handling marriage, divorce, and inheritance matters. Discrimination toward women on personal status matters varied depending on the religious group. The government’s interpretation of sharia is the basis of inheritance law for all citizens except members of recognized religious minority groups. In all communities male heirs must provide financial support to female relatives who inherit less. If they do not, women have the right to sue.

The law provides women and men equal rights in owning or managing land or other property, but cultural and religious norms impeded women’s property rights, especially in rural areas.

Law and custom generally do not respect freedom of movement for women. For example, the law prevents a woman from applying for a passport without the consent of her male guardian or a legal representative (see section 2.d.). could not obtain the Civil Status Identification Document, required for access to public services, food assistance, health care, employment, education, and housing, without the consent of a male relative.

NGOs also reported cases in which courts changed the registration of Yezidi women to Muslim against their will because of their forced marriage to ISIS fighters.

The KRG provided some additional legal protections to women, maintaining a High Council of ’s Affairs and a ’s Rights Monitoring Board to enforce the law and prevent and respond to discrimination, but such protections were applied inconsistently. Other portions of KRG law continue to mirror federal law, and women face discrimination. KRG law allows women to set as a prenuptial condition the right to divorce her husband beyond the limited circumstances allowed by Iraqi law and provides a divorced wife up to five years’ alimony beyond childcare.

Ireland

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and does not make a distinction between men and women. The government enforced the law. Most convicted persons received prison sentences of five to 12 years. The law also criminalizes domestic violence. It authorizes prosecution of a violent family member and provides victims with “safety orders,” which prohibit the offender from engaging in violent actions or threats, and “barring orders” (restraining orders), which prohibit an offender from entering the family home for up to three years. Anyone found guilty of violating a barring or an interim protection order may receive a fine, a prison sentence of up to 12 months, or both.

Sexual Harassment: The law obliges employers to prevent sexual harassment and prohibits employers from dismissing an employee for making a complaint of sexual harassment. Authorities effectively enforced the law when they received reports of sexual harassment. The penalties can include an order requiring equal treatment in the future, as well as compensation for the victim up to a maximum of two years’ pay or 40,000 euros ($46,000).

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. There were no reports of vulnerable populations experiencing difficulties accessing medical treatment affecting reproductive health. Capable adults must consent to all medical treatments, including those that arise from vulnerable populations. The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services, including the provision of contraception and abortion, for survivors of sexual violence. The Cervical Check Tribunal was set up in 2018 to adjudicate claims linked to misinterpretation of cervical cancer screenings. The Cervical Check Tribunal Act was signed into law in July and extended the closing date for eligible claims to be made to the Cervical Check Tribunal until January 26, 2022.

Discrimination: The law provides that women and men have the same legal status and rights. The government enforced the law effectively, although inequalities in pay and promotions persisted in both the public and private sectors. Travellers (a traditionally itinerant minority ethnic group), Roma, and migrant women have low levels of participation in political and public life.

Israel, West Bank and Gaza

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a felony for which conviction is punishable by 16 years’ imprisonment. Conviction of rape under aggravated circumstances or rape committed against a relative is punishable by 20 years’ imprisonment. Killing a spouse following abuse is chargeable as murder under aggravated circumstances, with a sentence, if convicted, of life imprisonment. Authorities generally enforced the law.

In 2020 the number of requests for assistance involving rape to the Association for Rape Crisis Centers was 9 percent higher than in 2019. Authorities opened 1,362 investigations of suspected rape in 2020, compared with 1,399 in 2019. In January, five men were indicted for a gang rape and sodomy of a 17-year-old minor in Ashkelon during a two-week period, including allegedly giving the survivor hard drugs daily. One of the five was the survivor’s partner, and he allegedly encouraged the others to commit these acts and documented it.

On January 20, the president of the Supreme Court published a procedure intended to facilitate the process of testifying for survivors of sexual assault. The procedure includes escorting the survivor in the court, reducing waiting time in the court, mandating the presence of both male and female judges, and limiting interaction between the survivor and the perpetrator to a minimum.

During the year, 22 women and girls were killed by their male partners or by other family members. According to Israel Women’s Network, more than 200,000 women lived in situations of domestic violence. The Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs’ hotline received 7,977 calls regarding domestic violence cases between January and October, an increase of 10 percent from 2020. In June a woman was arrested and held in detention for four days after refusing to testify in court against her former husband, who allegedly abused and threatened her. Following her arrest, the woman testified while her legs were chained together and stated her complaint was false. She was released after her appearance in court. A representative of the Public Defender’s Office stated that more proportionate measures could have been used by authorities to ensure the woman’s testimony before the court.

According to Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs data, the number of reports of domestic violence tripled in the first two months of the year compared with the average in 2019 and were slightly higher than the 2020 average. A state comptroller’s report from June 30 highlighted insufficient funding, low investment in early identification, long waiting times for treatment, and early administrative release of violent men without rehabilitation as matters of concern in the country’s struggle against domestic violence. The Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs operated 16 shelters for survivors of domestic abuse, including two for the Arab community, two mixed Jewish-Arab shelters, two for the ultra-Orthodox community, and eight for non-ultra-Orthodox-Jewish communities. The ministry also operated a hotline to report domestic abuse, including a text-message-based hotline. The Ministry of Justice Legal Aid Department represented women seeking restraining and safety orders and defended them in domestic violence cases.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal. Penalties for sexual harassment depend on the severity of the act and whether the harassment involved blackmail. The law provides that victims may follow the progress on their cases through a computerized system and information call center. In 2020 the prosecution filed 47 indictments for sexual harassment, which represented 15 percent of the total number of cases referred to it for potential prosecution during the year, a similar percentage to 2019 statistics. According to a Civil Service Commission report, in 2020 there were 230 sexual harassment complaints submitted to its Department of Discipline, compared with 214 complaints in 2019. During 2020 the commission submitted 20 lawsuits to its disciplinary tribunal, compared with 15 in 2019.

On March 11, the Haifa District Court convicted actor Moshe Ivgy of four counts of indecent acts and sexual harassment. On July 12, the actor was sentenced to 11 months’ imprisonment, subsequent probation, and compensation for two of the victims.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. According to NGOs, Arab/Palestinian women citizens of Israel, particularly from the Bedouin population, women asylum seekers, and Palestinian women from East Jerusalem, had limited access to health-care services. Traditional practices in Orthodox Jewish communities often led women to seek approval from a rabbi to use contraception.

The country has maintained a pro-birth policy regarding reproductive care, subsidizing fertility treatments until age 45 but for the most part not subsidizing contraceptives, except for women under age 20 and women in the IDF.

Discrimination: The law provides generally for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under family, religious, personal status, and national laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing business property. The government generally enforced the law effectively, but a wage gap between women and men persisted (see section 7.d.). Women and men are treated differently in Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Druze religious courts responsible for the adjudication of family law, including marriage and divorce.

The law allows a Jewish woman or man to initiate divorce proceedings, but both the husband and wife must give consent to make the divorce final. Sometimes a husband makes divorce contingent on his wife conceding to demands, such as those relating to property ownership or child custody. Jewish women in this situation could not remarry, and any children born to them from another man would be deemed illegitimate by the rabbinate without a writ of divorce. Rabbinical courts sometimes punished a husband who refused to grant his wife a divorce while also stating the courts lacked the authority under Jewish religious law to grant the divorce without a husband’s consent.

A Muslim man may divorce his wife without her consent and without petitioning the court. A Muslim woman may petition for and receive a divorce through the sharia courts without her husband’s consent under certain conditions. A marriage contract may provide for other circumstances in which she may obtain a divorce without his consent. Through ecclesiastical courts, Christians may seek official separations or divorces, depending on their denomination. Druze divorces are performed by an oral declaration of the husband or the wife and then registered through the Druze religious courts.

In some ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, private organizations posted “modesty signs” demanding women obscure themselves from public view to avoid distracting devout men. The Beit Shemesh municipality received several extensions from the Supreme Court, which ordered the municipality to remove such signs in 2018. On July 1, the Supreme Court ordered the attorney general to develop a national enforcement policy within 90 days that would allow the implementation of the court’s verdict, due to the failure at the local level to remove such “modesty signs.” The court ruled that 30 days after the policy was in place, fines would be imposed on the municipality for lack of enforcement.

Publicly displayed photographs of women were regularly defaced in cities with large ultra-Orthodox populations. According to media reports, due to failed enforcement against vandalism, some companies preferred to self-censor and not show women in their ads. In a December 2020 Knesset hearing, police stated they had opened 21 investigations following the vandalizing of women’s photographs in public spaces between 2018 and 2020; police closed 19 of these investigations without filing charges and transferred one to prosecutors.

Women’s rights organizations reported a continuing trend of gender segregation and women’s exclusion, including in public spaces and events, in the IDF, and in academia. In academia, segregation based on gender in classes originally meant to accommodate the ultra-Orthodox population expanded to entrances, labs, libraries, and hallways of academic spaces, based on the Council of Higher Education inspections revealed through a Freedom of Information Act request. On July 12, the Supreme Court permitted a gender-segregated bachelor’s degree track for the purpose of increasing ultra-Orthodox integration in higher education but prohibited segregation in public spaces on campuses and called for the immediate cancelation of the policy prohibiting women lecturers from teaching men-only classes. Incidents of segregation were also reported in government and local authorities’ events and courses. For example, in April the Jerusalem Municipality published an ad for a gender-segregated event for children up to the age of nine. Following a letter by the Israel Women’s Network asserting this type of separation is illegal, the municipality opened the event to the public without segregation between the sexes.

Italy

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law penalizes convicted perpetrators of rape of either gender, including spousal rape, with six to 12 years in prison. The law criminalizes the physical abuse of women (including by family members) and provides for the prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women and assistance in shielding abused women from publicity. Judicial protective measures for violence occurring within a family allow for an ex parte application to a civil court judge in urgent cases. A specific law on stalking includes mandatory detention for acts of sexual violence, including by partners. Police officers and judicial authorities prosecuted perpetrators of violence against women, but survivors frequently declined to press charges due to fear, shame, or ignorance of the law.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have both caused and masked an increase in violence against women. The pandemic at times forced women into closer proximity with their abusers, leading to greater abuse, while restrictions on movement and decreased funding for civil society organizations and agencies lowered the level of social services and hampered the reporting of cases and the delivery of assistance to survivors.

Between August 2020 and July, 62 women were killed by domestic partners or former partners. In the same period, authorities reported 11,832 cases of stalking. On June 22, for example, police arrested a man accused of having abused his wife for more than 30 years in Catanzaro. The woman had been repeatedly stabbed, beaten, and raped.

The Department of Equal Opportunity operated a hotline for victims of violence seeking immediate assistance and temporary shelter. It also operated a hotline for stalking victims. Between January and March, the hotline received 7,974 calls, a 39 percent increase from the same period in 2020. In 72 percent of those cases of violence, the mistreatment occurred at home where, in 48 percent of the cases, children were present.

Sexual Harassment: By law gender-based emotional abuse is a crime. Minor cases of verbal sexual harassment in public are punishable by up to six months’ incarceration and a fine. The government effectively enforced the law. Police investigated reports of harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Independent observers and NGOs reported that government health authorities did not provide sufficient resources to adequately supply the public with reproductive health services and counseling.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape. NGOs reported that in some cases government personnel were not sufficiently trained to identify victims and refer them to the requisite sources of assistance.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status and rights as men, and the government enforced laws prohibiting discrimination in all sectors of society and economy. Women nonetheless experienced widespread discrimination, particularly with respect to employment (also see section 7.d. regarding pay disparities between genders).

Japan

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender identity is not prohibited.

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes various forms of rape, regardless of the gender of a survivor and defines the crime as vaginal, anal, or oral penile penetration by force or through intimidation. Only men can be charged with rape, and the law does not recognize anything other than the use of male genitalia as rape. Forcible penetration with any other body part or object is considered forcible indecency, not rape. The age of consent is 13, which made prosecution for child rape difficult. The law also criminalizes custodial rape of a minor younger than age 18. The law does not deny the possibility of spousal rape, but no court has ever ruled on such a case, except in situations of marital breakdown (i.e., formal or informal separation, etc.). The law mandates a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment for rape convictions. Prosecutors must prove that violence or intimidation was involved or that the survivor was incapable of resistance. The penalty for forcible indecency is imprisonment for not less than six months or more than 10 years. Domestic violence is also a crime and survivors may seek restraining orders against their abusers. Convicted assault perpetrators face up to two years’ imprisonment or a modest fine. Convicted offenders who caused bodily injury faced up to 15 years’ imprisonment or a modest fine. Protective order violators faced up to one year’s imprisonment or a moderate fine. The National Police Agency received 82,643 reports of domestic violence in 2020, a record high after consecutive annual increases since 2003.

In October the Cabinet Office’s Gender Equality Bureau reported a decrease in domestic violence inquiries compared with the same period in 2020. From April to September, it reported receiving 90,843 inquiries compared with 96,132 inquiries in the same period in 2020. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare allowed survivors fleeing domestic or sexual violence to receive public services from their municipality of actual residence rather than from that of their residence of record.

Rape and domestic violence were significantly underreported crimes. Observers attributed women’s reluctance to report rape to a variety of factors, including fear of being blamed, fear of public shaming, a lack of support, potential secondary victimization through the police response, and court proceedings that lack empathy for rape survivors.

In March a 43-year-old female company board official was arrested on suspicion of indecent behavior with a 17-year-old boy. Police said the woman and the survivor met on social media.

Survivors of abuse by domestic partners, spouses, and former spouses could receive protection at shelters run by either the government or NGOs.

Sexual Harassment: The law requires employers to make efforts to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace; however, such sexual harassment persisted (see section 7.d.).

Sexual harassment also persisted in society. Men groping women and girls on trains continued to be a problem. The NGO Japan National Assembly of Disabled People’s International reported continued sexual harassment and stalking of women in wheelchairs or with visual impairment on trains and at stations, calling on some railway companies to stop announcing that persons with physical disabilities were boarding trains; such announcements sometimes also included the car or station involved. Some railway companies reportedly used such announcements so that train station attendants and train crew could prevent accidents. The assembly noted the announcement, however, helped would-be offenders locate female passengers with physical disabilities. On the request of the NGO, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in July issued a request that railway companies consider using alternative communication means. In August the ministry hosted a virtual meeting where representatives of more than 60 railway companies learned from assembly representatives about the harassment and stalking of women with disabilities on trains and at stations. As of the end of August, the assembly reported continued announcements by some railway companies, primarily in the greater Tokyo area.

In August the gender council of a youth group consisting mainly of high school and university students held an online petition campaign “NoMoreChikan,” demanding that the government take more fundamental and serious steps to prevent chikan (groping). At a press conference in late August, the group called on the government to conduct an in-depth survey of chikan, to increase awareness and education in schools including teaching students how to react when they are victimized, and to set up correctional programs for offenders. The group collected more than 27,000 signatures on a petition with its requests sent to the Ministry of Education, political parties, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in September.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The law requires transgender persons to be without reproductive capacity, effectively requiring surgical sterilization for most persons to have their gender identity legally recognized. (See subsection “Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” below for more information.)

The law requires spousal consent to terminate a pregnancy.

In March the Ministry of Health issued new guidelines to allow survivors of domestic violence to terminate a pregnancy without spousal consent. There were reports that rape survivors were denied abortions without consent of the perpetrator. The Japan Medical Association instructed gynecologists to request documentation like a bill of indictment or a court sentence from sexual assault survivors seeking an abortion.

The government subsidized sexual or reproductive health-care services for survivors of sexual violence when the survivors seek help from police or government-designated centers supporting sexual violence survivors located in each prefecture. These services included medical examinations and emergency contraception.

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on sex and generally provides women the same rights as men. The Gender Equality Bureau in the Cabinet Office continued to examine policies and monitor developments.

Despite the law and related policies, NGOs continued to allege that implementation of antidiscrimination measures was insufficient, pointing to discriminatory provisions in the law, unequal treatment of women in the labor market (see section 7.d.), and low representation of women in elected bodies.

Calls for the government to allow married couples to choose their own surnames continued. The civil code requires married couples to share a single surname. According to the government, 96 percent of married couples adopt the husband’s family name. On June 23, the Supreme Court ruled that the legal provision requiring married couples to use the same surname is constitutional. The ruling upheld a 2015 decision and recommended the issue be discussed in the Diet.

In February Mori Yoshiro, chairperson of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympics organizing committees and a former prime minister, was forced to resign after saying that meetings with women take too long because women talk too much.

Three high school students collected more than 7,500 signatures on a petition urging a major convenience store to change the name of its readymade food line from Okaasan Shokudo (Mom’s Diner). They argued there is an inherent gender bias in the name, implying that a wife’s job is to do the cooking and housework, possibly deepening social biases.

According to National Police Agency statistics, 7,026 women committed suicide in 2020, a 15 percent increase from the previous year. In February the prime minister elevated the issue to the cabinet level, assigning it to the minister for regional revitalization. A member of the ruling LDP’s “loneliness and isolation” taskforce attributed the increase to stresses arising from the pandemic, including the increased presence tin the home of spouses and children; record levels of domestic violence; and multiple high-profile celebrity suicides. The government also reported the number of working women who committed suicide rose to 1,698 in 2020 compared with an annual average of 1,323 from 2015 to 2019. The government attributed the more than 28 percent increase to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which women were disproportionally dismissed from their employment. The number of men and nonworking or self-employed women committing suicide declined. In response the bureau continued 24-hour hotline services and consultation services via social network services in Japanese and 10 foreign languages.

Jordan

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law stipulates a sentence of at least 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labor for the rape of any individual age 15 or older. Spousal rape is not illegal. The law makes prosecution mandatory for felony offenses, including rape. Nonfelony offenses, such as certain cases of domestic violence, are first subjected to mediation by the Family Protection Department (FPD) of the PSD. The law provides options for alternative sentencing in domestic violence cases, with consent of the victim. The government did not effectively enforce the law against rape.

Violence against women was prevalent. While the reported number of “honor” crimes decreased, local NGOs reported an increase in domestic violence. As of September a human rights NGO reported that 13 women died from domestic violence.

In January two men were charged with the attempted murder of their sister. The victim, identified only as Ayah, remained hospitalized in a coma for a month. Police reported Ayah had previously been hospitalized in December 2020 after an earlier assault by one of the brothers, who was then referred to the governor but released without charges.

In August the National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA), a civil society organization chaired by the queen, launched guidelines for responding to domestic violence against women and children. Women may file complaints of rape or physical abuse with certain NGOs or directly with judicial authorities. Due to social taboos and degrading treatment at police stations, however, gender-based crimes often went unreported. NGOs also highlighted that there were no official figures on the prevalence of violence against unmarried girls and women age 50 years and over.

In January the Grand Criminal Court sentenced a man to seven and one-half years’ imprisonment with hard labor for sexually assaulting his 16-year-old daughter more than 300 times. Social media activists and women’s rights advocates condemned the sentence as too lenient relative to the scope of the crime and called for legal reform to eliminate the use of mitigating factors by judges when imposing sentences for such crimes.

The FPD investigated more than 4,000 cases during the year, referring 90 cases to government shelters and more than 100 to a nongovernmental shelter. Some NGOs and lawyers reported pressure against taking physical abuse cases to court and asserted that courts routinely dropped two-thirds of assault cases that resulted in little or no physical injury. Spousal abuse is technically grounds for divorce, but husbands sometimes claimed cultural authority to strike their wives. Observers noted while judges generally supported a woman’s claim of abuse in court, due to societal and familial pressure and fear of violence such as “honor” killings, few women sought legal remedies.

In March the PSD announced the merger of the Juvenile Police Department with the FPD to unify efforts aimed at protecting children and families. The PSD, the judiciary, and the Ministries of Justice, Health, and Social Development jointly developed a formal mediation process, including a manual with guidelines. A specialized “settlement” judge must oversee the resolution of each case and confirm consent of both parties, receiving recommendations from mental health providers and social workers, and may order community service, quash criminal charges, and issue protection orders.

NGO representatives reported fewer women at risk of becoming victims of “honor” crimes but more women at risk of domestic violence. According to international human rights organizations operating in the country, gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence, increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emotional and physical abuse, often perpetrated by an intimate partner or member of the family, were the most common forms of abuse.

Governors used the crime prevention law to detain women administratively for their protection. The Ministry of Social Development operated a shelter for women at risk of violence and “honor” crimes. As of October the Amman-based shelter for women at risk of “honor” crimes had served 268 women, including administrative detainees from the Juweideh women’s correctional and rehabilitation center, women referred to the shelter by the FPD, and women directly referred to the shelter by governors. The Ministry of Social Development amended the shelter’s bylaws to allow children younger than age 10 to accompany their mothers, including mothers who had previously been detained under protective custody.

The FPD operated a domestic violence hotline and received inquiries and complaints via email and in person. The Ministry of Social Development maintained a second shelter for female victims of domestic violence in Irbid. NGO reports indicated, prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, that all government-run shelters were operating well below capacity.

The NCFA published a three-year national plan to respond to gender-based violence, domestic violence, and child protection. NGOs reported that health-care providers and teachers were still hesitant to report abuse due to the absence of witness protection guarantees. Specialized judges continued expediting domestic violence cases; misdemeanor cases took approximately three days to resolve, according to the FPD. The NCFA assisted the government in developing mediation guidelines.

NGOs reported improvements to domestic violence-related procedures and policies in law enforcement and the judiciary, since revisions recommended by an NCFA committee established in the wake of protests concerning the handling of a 2020 case in which a man allegedly bludgeoned his adult daughter to death with a brick. In March the Grand Felonies Court convicted a man who had gouged out his wife’s eyes in 2019, a case known as the Jerash crime, of premeditated murder and sentenced him to 30 years’ imprisonment with hard labor.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Civil society organizations stated that many “honor” crimes went unreported, especially in nonurban areas.

In June a man beat his 21-year-old daughter, identified as Rania, to death with an electric cable. NGOs suspected it was an “honor” killing case. The grand felonies prosecutor charged the father with torturing and murdering his daughter. The father remained in detention, and the case was still in process as of mid-November. The killing provoked popular anger and calls on social media for justice for Rania and other women killed by their families.

There were no reported instances of forced marriage as an alternative to a potential “honor” killing during the year. NGOs noted that a few cases of forced marriage occurred shortly after an accusation of rape, due to family and societal pressure before any formal trial began. Observers noted that, according to customary belief, if a woman marries her rapist, her family members do not need to kill her to “preserve the family’s honor,” despite a law ending the practice of absolving rapists who married their victims. Nevertheless, NGOs noted that this law helped reduce such instances and encouraged more women to report rape, especially since the establishment of the shelter.

Governors referred potential victims of “honor” crimes to the Ministry of Social Development shelter instead of involuntary protective custody in a detention facility. During the year governors directly referred 10 women to the shelter. Most cases were referred by the FPD and NGOs.

The law authorizes DNA tests and other scientific means to identify paternity of a newborn associated with “rape, deception, and deceit.”

Sexual Harassment: The law strictly prohibits sexual harassment and does not distinguish between sexual assault and sexual harassment. Both carry a minimum prison sentence of four years’ hard labor. The law also sets penalties for indecent touching and verbal harassment but does not define protections against sexual harassment. The government did not effectively enforce the law; sexual harassment of women and girls in public was widely reported. NGOs reported refugees from Syria and foreign workers, particularly garment workers and domestic workers, were especially vulnerable to gender-based violence, including sexual harassment and sexual assault, in the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The law permits couples the basic right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Contraceptives were widely accessible and provided free of charge in public clinics. Hormonal and emergency contraceptives and medical abortion drugs were not included on the government’s over-the-counter list, according to UK-based scientific journal Bio Med Central (BMC). According to estimates in the UN Population Fund’s State of World Population 2020, 21 percent of women ages 15-49 years used a modern method of contraception. BMC reported that sexual and reproductive services were underutilized by youth.

Advocates raised concerns regarding barriers to services for unmarried women and access problems for women and girls with disabilities, including consent for hysterectomies. Human rights groups raised concerns regarding the treatment of single women who give birth at hospitals, including hospital staff’s reporting them to authorities.

There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. There were no governmental policies limiting family size.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services, including rape kits and forensic examinations, for survivors of sexual violence, but emergency contraception was generally not available, limiting clinical management of rape. According to an NGO, health professionals did not consistently use trauma-informed practices when interacting with victims, and the quality of care varied throughout the country.

Another NGO reported unmarried victims of rape who became pregnant faced difficulties gaining access to safe delivery and establishing legal status for their children.

Adolescent girls and unmarried women who became pregnant were routinely transferred to government-funded shelters where they could receive educational services, although the quality varied. Social norms prevented underaged girls who became pregnant from attending school.

Discrimination: The constitution affords equal rights to men and women. Nonetheless, observers continued to emphasize the relevant passage’s ambiguity, and the women’s subcommittee of the Royal Committee for the Modernization of the Political System recommended clarifying definitions of equality in the constitution in a report published in October.

In February the PSD launched its first gender-mainstreaming strategy for the years 2021 to 2024. Prior to the launch, female officers mainly served in traffic police and family protection capacities. This strategy opened all PSD positions to female officers, including positions in the Criminal Investigative and Anti-Narcotics Departments, and aimed to recruit young women and retain officers after marriage by instituting family friendly policies. The PSD established a gender office in February to implement the strategy and train PSD leaders on its tenets. The Jordan Armed Forces also launched its own strategy in September to increase women’s participation, including recruitment, retention, and advancement in leadership positions. Observing this strategy, the armed forces began to accept more female pilots into the air academy and deployed more women in UN peacekeeping missions.

The law does not necessarily provide for the same legal status, rights, and inheritance provisions for women as for men. Women experienced discrimination in several areas, including divorce, child custody, citizenship, the workplace, and, in certain circumstances, the value of their testimony in a sharia court handling civil law matters. The Jordanian National Commission for Women, a quasi-governmental organization, operated a hotline to receive discrimination complaints.

NGOs reported a disproportionate number of individuals charged with nonrepayment of debt were women unable to repay loans they had taken out on behalf of their male family members. In March a defense order suspended prison sentences penalizing the nonrepayment of debt through December 31, and an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 individuals were released from debt imprisonment. This order echoed a Judicial Council decision in April 2020 postponing the jailing of debtors with unpaid debts less than JD 100,000 ($141,000).

The Ministry of Labor designated an office for handling discrimination claims in the workplace for both men and women. Local NGOs advocated for better representation of women in leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. In March the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported Jordanian women held 62 percent of leadership positions in the education sector but just 2.7 percent of leadership positions in the overall economy. Additionally, World Bank research found the pay gap between Jordanian men and women was 40 percent in the private sector and 28 percent in the public sector. Some NGOs criticized the absence of provisions on maternity leave, childcare, and access to equal health insurance for female workers.

Under the Personal Status Law that applies sharia rulings, daughters inherit half the amount that sons receive, with some exceptions. A sole female heir receives only half of her parents’ estate, with the balance going to uncles, whereas a sole male heir inherits all of his parents’ property. Women may seek divorce without the consent of their husbands in limited circumstances, such as abandonment, spousal abuse, or in return for waiving financial rights. The law allows retention of financial rights under specific circumstances, such as spousal abuse. Special religious courts for recognized Christian denominations under the Council of Churches adjudicate marriage and divorce for Christians, but for inheritance, sharia applies to all persons, irrespective of religion.

Since the start of the pandemic, by order of the sharia court, alimony for women was paid electronically or through the Jordan Post Office. Due to suspension of work and salaries in some cases, the court resorted to the Alimony Credit Fund to pay women and children’s alimony.

The government provided men with more generous social security benefits than women. Family members who inherited the pension payments of deceased civil servants received differing amounts according to the heir’s gender. Laws and regulations governing health insurance for civil servants permit women to extend their health insurance coverage to dependents or spouses.

The law allows a non-Muslim mother to retain custody of her Muslim children beyond the age of seven (the previous limit).

Kazakhstan

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes sexual abuse and rape, and imposes penalties up to eight years of imprisonment, or life imprisonment if the crime was committed against a minor. There were reports of police and judicial reluctance to act on reports of rape, particularly in spousal rape cases. According to human rights defenders, fewer than 1 percent of rape complaints made it to court.

On February 9, a court in Almaty sentenced both a former prosecutor and a former manager of a local bank to eight years of imprisonment for committing a rape in 2019. Police initially refused to record the complaint when the victim first reported the crime but later officially registered the case due to her lawyer’s persistence. Police resistance, procrastination, attempts to hush up the complainant, and other hurdles delayed the investigation. The victim faced pressure and intimidation from the assailants’ relatives who tried to force her to withdraw the complaint.

On August 10, a court in Almaty convicted former KNB captain Sabyrzhan Narynbayev for attempted rape and sentenced him to eight years of imprisonment. In September 2020 Narynbayev gave a ride to Aiya Umurzakova and on the way to her village he assaulted and beat her, tried to rape her, and threatened her life. Lawyers persuaded her to file a complaint with police. Before and during the court proceedings, Umurzakova reported pressure and threats from the assailant and his family and attempts to persuade her to drop the case by offering money. A fraud case was launched against her for allegedly taking money from the defendant to withdraw her complaint but afterwards refusing to do so. The court found Umurzakova not guilty of fraud.

NGOs estimated that more than 400 women died annually from spousal violence. The law specifies various types of domestic violence, such as physical, psychological, sexual, and economic violence. It outlines the responsibilities of local and national governments and NGOs in supporting victims of domestic violence. The law has mechanisms for issuing restraining orders and provides for administrative detention of alleged abusers for 24 hours. The law sets the maximum sentence for conviction of spousal assault and battery at 10 years in prison, the same as for assault. The law permits prohibiting offenders from living with the victim if the offender has alternatives. It allows victims of domestic violence to receive appropriate care regardless of the place of residence. The law replaces financial penalties with administrative arrest if having the perpetrator pay fines damages the victim’s interests.

Research conducted by the Ministry of National Economy indicated that most victims of partner abuse never tell anyone of their abuse, due in part to social stigma. Police intervened in family disputes only when they believed the abuse was life threatening. Police often encouraged the two parties to reconcile. NGOs also noted that the lenient penalty for conviction of domestic violence – an administrative offense with a maximum sentence of 15 days’ imprisonment – did not deter even previously convicted offenders.

Police reported that the number of domestic violence offenses decreased 8 percent following a significant increase in 2020. The law was changed to shift the responsibility to police for collecting evidence for these offenses; previously it was the responsibility of victims. Penalties were increased and reconciliation procedures were reformed.

The government maintained domestic violence shelters in each region. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there were 49 crisis centers, 39 of which had shelters.

Activists criticized the government for failing to ensure that all persons in vulnerable situations were protected against domestic violence. Even when victims reported violence, activists stated police were reluctant to act. Police sometimes did not issue restraining orders to assailants and tried to dissuade the victim from filing a complaint, creating an environment of impunity for aggressors. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, reforms included a formal training for police and judges on domestic violence and a repeat-offender plan that increased the use of restraining orders and expanded penalties to include imprisonment.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Although prohibited by law, the practice of kidnapping women and girls for forced marriage continued in some remote areas. The law prescribes a prison sentence of seven to 12 years for conviction of kidnapping. A person who voluntarily releases an abductee is absolved of criminal responsibility; consequently, a typical bride-kidnapper is not necessarily held criminally responsible. Law enforcement agencies often advised abductees to resolve their situations themselves. According to civil society organizations, making a complaint to police could be a very complex process and often subjected families and victims to humiliation.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a problem. No law protects women from sexual harassment, and only the use of force or taking advantage of a victim’s physical helplessness during sexual assault carries criminal liability. There were no reports of any prosecutions. Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace were hesitant to file complaints due to shame or fear of job loss.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. There were no reports of educational problems related to women’s reproductive health and hygiene. Access to government-provided sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors was limited. Women were able to access emergency contraception as part of clinical rape management, but most women privately procured such treatment at their own expense to avoid state-run clinics’ bureaucratic examination requirements.

Discrimination: The constitution and law provide for equal rights and freedoms for men and women. The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but discrimination remained a problem. Significant salary gaps between men and women remained. According to observers, women in rural areas faced greater discrimination than women in urban areas and suffered from a greater incidence of domestic violence, limited opportunities for education and employment, limited access to information, and discrimination in land rights and property rights.

Kiribati

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women and men is a crime, with a maximum penalty of life in prison, but sentences typically were much shorter. Domestic violence is a crime. The law provides for penalties of up to six months in prison for common assault and up to five years in prison for assault involving bodily harm.

The government, in partnership with UN Women, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resource Team, and development partners, offered training for police, public prosecutors, health workers, social welfare workers, education officials, elected officials, and nongovernmental organization workers to implement the law effectively. Domestic violence, often exacerbated by chronic alcohol abuse, continued to be a serious problem. Cultural taboos on reporting rape and domestic abuse and police attitudes encouraging reconciliation rather than prosecution existed.

The government continued implementing the Eliminating Sexual and Gender-based Violence Policy through a 10-year national action plan launched in 2011 and addressing inequalities through the 2019 Gender Equality and Women’s Development Policy. The police force has a Domestic Violence and Sexual Offenses Unit whose officers participated in a capacity-building program that provided training in handling such cases. Police ran a 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. The government’s Strengthening Peaceful Villages program, a community-based intervention program launched in 2019, continued to engage most of the country’s population residing in South Tarawa. The Kiribati Women and Children Support Center increased its support for women and children affected by violence, providing victims with counseling and referral services. The Support Center opened a second shelter for women and children in July on Kiritimati Island, the second most populated island in the country. The Ministry of Health operated a clinic at the main hospital in Tarawa for victims of domestic violence and sexual offenses.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment and prescribes a fine for anyone found guilty of the offense. There were no official reports of sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

There were no legal barriers or government policies that impeded access to sexual and reproductive health services. Conservative social and cultural attitudes inhibited access for some to the services.

Access to contraception, as well as prenatal, obstetric, and postnatal care, was available from public health hospitals and centers, but health services were limited in outer islands. The Kiribati Family Health Association also offered mobile reproductive health-clinic services, undertook public campaigns, and provided information and counseling on family planning, although cultural and religious influences remained barriers to access and utilization of services.

The government provided sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, to survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on gender in employment but not on other grounds (see section 7.d.); there were no reports of government enforcing the law. Women have equal access to education. Property ownership rights are generally the same for men and women, but land inheritance laws are patrilineal, and sons often inherited more land than daughters. The citizenship law contains some discriminatory provisions. For example, the foreign wife of a male citizen acquires citizenship automatically through the marriage, but the foreign husband of a female citizen does not. Mothers cannot confer nationality to their children.

Kosovo

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and domestic violence against all persons, including rape of a relative or spouse. By law rape is punishable by two to 15 years in prison. EULEX noted that courts often applied penalties lighter than the legal minimum in rape cases and that law enforcement bodies rarely took steps to protect victims and witnesses. In addition, sentences were often further decreased by the appellate court. The Prosecution Victim Assistance Office reported an increased number of domestic violence cases, from 1,145 in 2020 to 1,374 from January to August. Instances of gender-based violence, including sexual violence and rape were rarely reported by survivors, frequently due to social stigma or lack of trust in authorities.

The law recognizes gender-based violence as a form of discrimination but lacks a definition of gender-based violence for use in criminal and civil proceedings. The Prosecution Victim Assistance Office helped to provide access to justice for survivors of all crimes, with a special focus on survivors of domestic violence, trafficking in persons, child abuse, and rape. In addition, each prosecutor’s office had a prosecutor who specialized in handling domestic violence cases. These prosecutors could apply risk-assessment tools to mitigate the risk of future abuse and were empowered to recommend harsher sentences for repeat offenders and violators of protective orders.

Police investigated cases of domestic violence before transferring them to prosecutors who make the determination on filing charges. The rate of prosecution was low, however, and sentences were often lowered on appeal. Advocates and court observers asserted prosecutors and judges favored family unification over survivor protection, with protective orders sometimes allowing the perpetrator to remain in the family home while a case was pending. Sentences ranged from judicial reprimands to up to five years’ imprisonment. The Pristina Basic Court held online hearings on domestic violence cases consistent with government COVID-19 pandemic measures.

In March, Sebahate Morina was killed by her former husband, Lulzim Sopi, 11 days after her daughter reported to police that her mother was being abused physically. In 2019, Sopi was indicted on domestic violence charges, and despite consistent violence against his wife, the Gjilan Basic Court, following a guilty plea by Sopi, imposed a criminal fine only. A civil restraining order against Sopi was active until three months before Morina’s reported murder. In March the Ombudsperson issued a report on the killing, finding authorities did not conduct a proper risk assessment and lacked coordination.

In August two men deposited the body of 18-year-old Marigona Osmani in front of a hospital in Ferizaj/Urosevac. Doctors confirmed Osmani had been raped and otherwise physically abused for at least two days and was already dead when discovered at the hospital. From the hospital’s security camera footage, Kosovo Police identified Dardan Krivaqa, Osmani’s husband, and Arber Sejdiu as suspects and arrested both two days later. Press reports indicated police had previously charged both men for multiple other violent offenses, including rape, bodily injury, and attempted murder. The incident sparked nationwide protests against perceived police inaction. As of September the two suspects remained in custody pending further investigation.

The government licensed and supported 10 NGOs that assisted women and child survivors of domestic violence. The government maintained a budget line for financial support of shelters, resolving a long-standing funding problem. Both NGOs and shelters reported timely receipt of funding.

The Office of the Prime Minister maintained a commission to recognize and compensate survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. The commission has granted pensions to more than 900 women since 2018. The SPRK designated one prosecutor for cases of conflict-related sexual violence. Police maintained a unit for war crimes cases, including cases of conflict-related sexual violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment in civil and criminal proceedings. The criminal article on sexual harassment stipulates criminal proceedings are initiated upon a victim’s request and prison sentences are authorized for sexual harassment offenses against vulnerable victims. In cases where a crime is committed with the use of a weapon, the sentence may vary from one to five years in prison. The NGO Kosovo Women’s Network reported that implementation of sexual harassment laws was hampered by poorly defined procedures for filing complaints of harassment, and lack of clarity regarding which government bodies should receive these complaints.

According to women’s rights organizations, harassment was common at workplaces in both the public and private sectors, including in public institutions of higher education.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Poor, marginalized, and illiterate individuals often had insufficient access to information on reproductive health. To address the problem, the government and the UN Population Fund created family planning curricula for all educational levels and began training educators to implement it.

The government requires transgender persons to undergo mandatory sterilization before changing their gender marker (see Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, below, for additional information).

The National Law on Reproductive Health obligates the government to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. Emergency contraception was not always available as part of clinical management of rape. The Ministry of Health included emergency contraception on its list of essential drugs for health centers, but the UN Population Fund reported some centers did not always have the drugs available. The Kosovo Women’s Network reported it was unaware of emergency contraceptive services in the country. Survivors were assigned a “victim’s protection official” who assisted with both the criminal justice and medical treatment processes.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The law requires equal pay for equivalent work. The law stipulates that partners in marriage and civil unions have equal rights to own and inherit property, but men usually inherited family property and other assets. In rare instances Kosovo-Albanian widows, particularly in rural areas, risked losing custody of their children due to a family custom requiring children and property to pass to the deceased father’s family while the widow returned to her birth family.

Relatively few women occupied upper-level management positions in business, police, or government. The Kosovo Women’s Network reported women were often subject to discriminatory hiring practices.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: The boy-to-girl ratio at birth was 108 boys to 100 girls. The government did not have policies to address the imbalance.

Kuwait

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, but not spousal rape. The law covers rape for men and women. Rape carries a maximum penalty of death, which the courts occasionally imposed for the crime. The courts issued verdicts for 198 cases of sexual assault including rape. Some defendants were acquitted, while others received jail sentences from five to 20 years. Authorities did not effectively enforce laws against rape. The law allows a rapist to avoid punishment on the condition that he marry his victim and that her male guardian consents that the perpetrator not be punished. Violence against women continued to be a problem, and the law does not include separate criminal penalties for domestic violence. There were reports alleging that some police stations did not take seriously reports by both citizens and noncitizens of sexual assault and domestic violence, which service providers stated contributes to a culture of underreporting by rape and domestic violence survivors.

When reported, police typically arrested perpetrators and investigated allegations of rape, and in a limited number of cases, prosecuted the accused. In July the Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the arrest of a former government official for kidnapping and raping a Bidoon child. As of November the alleged perpetrator was in pretrial detention. In September the Criminal Court sentenced a male citizen to 15 years in prison for raping an expatriate woman.

Although the government does not regularly publish statistics on domestic violence, cases of domestic violence against women were regularly reported by local NGOs. These NGOs noted an increase in cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. The courts issued verdicts for 991 domestic violence cases, including 662 cases of violence against women. Some defendants were acquitted, while others received jail sentences from six months to 20 years, and some were sentenced to the death penalty. Service providers observed that domestic violence was significantly underreported to authorities, but press publicized some high-profile cases.

In April a citizen man stabbed to death a citizen woman after he crashed his car into her sister’s car and kidnapped her and her daughter. She had previously filed two police complaints against the perpetrator for harassing and threatening her for more than a year after her family had refused his marriage proposal. In July the Criminal Court charged the perpetrator with first degree murder and sentenced him to death by hanging. In September the Criminal Court referred a citizen man responsible for the September 2020 killing of his sister for examination by mental health experts. Press reports indicated that the accused man killed his sister while she was recovering in the hospital from an initial attempt on her life by another brother. Media asserted the men attacked their sister because they did not approve of her marriage.

In February activists launched a countrywide social media campaign under the name Lan Asket (“I will not be silenced”) to raise awareness and end violence against women. The campaign encouraged women to submit their experiences online and documented numerous reports of women facing violence and harassment. Women’s rights activists also documented numerous stories of citizen and female foreign workers seeking help to leave an abusive situation who faced significant obstacles or were forced to remain in life-threatening situations because government has not yet opened a shelter for victims of domestic violence. As of December the Ministry of Social Affairs assigned a building for a domestic violence shelter with capacity for up to 100 women and hired at least six staff to work at the shelter and operate the domestic violence hotline.

A woman may petition for divorce based on injury from spousal abuse, but the law does not provide a clear legal standard regarding what constitutes injury. In domestic violence cases, a woman must produce a report from a government hospital to document her injuries, in addition to having at least two male witnesses (or a male witness and two female witnesses) who can attest to the abuse. Advocates reported that women who reach out to police rarely get help because officers are not adequately trained to deal with domestic violence cases. Victims were generally sent back to their male guardians, who in some instances were also their abusers. Information on the number of cases and final and appealable sentences issued for rape and domestic violence was unavailable.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): While FGM/C is illegal, it is not specifically criminalized by law outside of the penal code provisions prohibiting physical violence and abuse. NGOs have reported its practice in some expatriate communities. Parents and doctors found to be participating in FGM/C can be fined.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law provided reduced penalties for a man who murders a woman who allegedly engaged in an adulterous act, which NGOs have asserted legalizes honor killings. The government does not track honor killings or publish data on honor killings.

Sexual Harassment: Human rights groups characterized sexual harassment in the workplace as a pervasive and mostly unreported problem. The penal code criminalizes sexual harassment, but many activists, legal experts, and members of parliament have stated they are not satisfied with the penal code and called for a separate law to criminalize sexual harassment in February. In reference to the penal code, in September the government announced that sexual harassment is prohibited in the private sector workplace and that PAM is responsible for referring cases of sexual harassment and discrimination to the Ministry of Interior and Public Prosecutor’s Office. The prohibition also includes “all forms and means of harassment and discrimination,” including online and discrimination based on gender, age, pregnancy, or social status. PAM, however, has not announced the implementation of any procedures to report violations of the prohibition. The law criminalizes “encroachment on honor,” which encompasses everything from touching persons against their will to rape, but police inconsistently enforced this law. The government deployed female police officers specifically to combat sexual harassment in shopping malls and other public spaces. Perpetrators of sexual harassment and sexual assault faced fines and imprisonment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

There were no reports of government interference in the right of married couples to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of children. There were no reports of government interference in the ability to access information on reproductive health. Social and cultural attitudes, however, prevented unmarried women from seeking out this information and some physicians were reluctant to administer certain procedures, such as pap smears, to unmarried women despite there being no law against it. The information and means to make decisions, as well as skilled attendance during prenatal care, essential obstetric care, childbirth, and postpartum care were freely available to citizens and foreign residents with valid identification documents. Many stateless Bidoon and unmarried women reportedly had difficulty accessing nonemergency reproductive medical care.

While the government did not provide any formal family planning programs, contraceptives were available without prescription regardless of nationality, age, or marital status. Clinics were prohibited from providing any advice on contraceptives to unmarried women, however. Cultural stigmas discouraged unmarried women from accessing contraceptives. According to UN Population Fund 2021 estimates, 34 percent of women ages 15-49 used a modern type of contraceptives. It is illegal to give birth out of wedlock, and a mother who gives birth out of wedlock can be imprisoned along with her child. Fathers of children born out of wedlock can also be imprisoned. If an unmarried woman was pregnant, authorities have at times summoned her partner for interviewing, requested the suspected father submit to a paternity test, and asked for a marriage certificate backdated nine months for the mother and father to avoid arrest. Mothers giving birth out of wedlock in public or government-run hospitals often faced issues getting documentation for their children. NGOs and medical professionals reported families pressured unmarried pregnant women to claim falsely they have been raped to avoid jail time and the stigma associated with sexual relations prior to marriage.

The government provided some access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, but these services were largely inadequate. Emergency contraception was available. A large percentage of survivors of sexual violence had little access to health services. NGOs reported that hospitals do not have rape kits available; rape survivors are required to go to the Ministry of Interior’s forensic medical department to request a rape kit. Publicly available information was limited on the required procedures needed to request a rape kit. Expatriate survivors of sexual violence often had even less access to such services, particularly if they were illegal residents or their employer did not provide adequate medical coverage.

Discrimination: The law does not provide women the same legal status, rights, and inheritance provisions as men. Women experienced discrimination in most aspects of family law, including divorce and child custody, as well as in the basic rights of citizenship, the workplace, and in certain circumstances, the value of their testimony in court. Sharia (Islamic law) courts have jurisdiction over personal status and family law cases for Sunni and Shia Muslims. As implemented in the country, sharia discriminates against women in judicial proceedings, marriage, child custody, and inheritance. There were no reported cases of official or private sector discrimination in accessing credit, owning or managing a business, or securing housing, but no official government system exists to track this.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to both citizen and noncitizen women (see section 7.d.). Secular courts allow any person to testify and consider the testimony of men and women equally, but in sharia courts the testimony of a women equals half that of a man. A study released by the Kuwait Society for Human Rights in 2020 found that, while the constitution provides for equal rights for women, implementation often fell short and many laws contradicted its equal protection provisions.

The law allows marriage between Muslim men and non-Muslim women (of Abrahamic religious groups only) but it prohibits marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men. The law does not require a non-Muslim woman to convert to Islam to marry a Muslim man, but many non-Muslim women faced strong economic and societal pressure to convert. In the event of a divorce between a Muslim father and non-Muslim mother who did not convert to Islam, the law grants the father or his family sole custody of the children. A non-Muslim woman married to a Muslim citizen man is also ineligible for naturalization and cannot inherit her husband’s property unless specified as a beneficiary in his will.

Inheritance is also governed by sharia, which varies according to the specific school of Islamic jurisprudence. In the absence of a direct male heir, a Shia woman may inherit all property, while a Sunni woman inherits only a portion, with the balance divided among brothers, uncles, and male cousins of the deceased.

Women do not enjoy equal citizenship rights as men. Female citizens are unable to transmit citizenship to their noncitizen husbands or to children. Failure to provide equal citizenship rights to women subjects their children to statelessness when a woman is married to a stateless Bidoon resident. In exceptional cases some children of widowed or divorced female citizens were granted citizenship by amiri decree, although this was a discretionary act. In March the Ministry of Interior announced female citizens could sponsor residency permits for their noncitizen husbands and children only if the husband and children were unemployed and not naturalized citizens.

Male citizens married to female noncitizens do not face such discrimination and their children are accorded the full legal protections of citizenship. In February, however, the Legislative and Legal Affairs Committee rejected a proposal to grant citizenship to widows of male citizens even if the couple had children. Individuals can petition the Ministry of Interior to include their name on a list of proposed naturalizations, to be reviewed by the Council of Ministers. If approved the names go to the amir for signature and are published in the national gazette. The law requires segregation by gender of classes at all public universities and secondary schools, although it was not always enforced.

Kyrgyzstan

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The rape of both women and men, including spousal rape, is illegal. The government failed to enforce the law effectively, and many rape victims did not report their rape or sexual assault to police or NGOs. Penalties for conviction of sexual assault range from three to eight years’ imprisonment. Prosecutors rarely brought rape cases to court. Police generally regarded spousal rape as an administrative rather than criminal offense.

While the law specifically prohibits domestic violence and spousal abuse, violence against women and girls remained a significant yet underreported problem. Penalties for domestic violence convictions range from fines to 15 years’ imprisonment, the latter if abuse resulted in death. In 2020 police recorded 9,025 cases of domestic violence, a 65 percent rise compared to previous years, but only about 940 of the cases were sent to courts. In the first eight months of the year, the police registered 7,665 cases of domestic violence against women, 30 percent higher than the same period in 2020. Domestic violence experts explained that increased unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, alcoholism, and strain on families who care for children left behind by migrant workers are causes of the increased rate of domestic violence. Experts also explained that increased rates of domestic violence could be due to an increase in women’s willingness to file reports with police.

From the end of December 2020 until January, three women died by suicide in the northeastern Issyk-Kul region in separate cases linked to domestic violence. One of the women previously had said if she ran away, her husband would find her and torture her. Police refused to open a criminal probe into the domestic violence of one of the other women because they claimed there were no witnesses, no reports of a crime, and no complaints.

Among the domestic violence cases brought to court, prosecutors classified a significant number as administrative offenses or misdemeanors, which carry a lighter sentence. A 2019 revision to the Code of Misdemeanors, however, includes a provision that criminalizes domestic violence.

Many women did not report crimes against them due to psychological pressure, economic dependence, cultural traditions, fear of stigma, and apathy among law enforcement officers. NGOs noted some women are reluctant to report cases of violence to police because they do not trust the police to handle the cases appropriately. Civil society and media reported instances of spouses retaliating against women who reported abuse.

The government provided offices to the Sezim Shelter (Sezim is the Kyrgyz word for crisis) in Bishkek for victims of domestic abuse and paid some of its expenses. International NGOs and organizations contributed funding to other shelters throughout the country. Despite this funding, NGOs such as Human Rights Watch questioned the government’s commitment to address the problem. According to an Amnesty International report, there are 14 crisis centers in the country. All but one are based in the towns of Bishkek and Osh. Experts note that the centers are underresourced. In February the Bishkek municipality opened a new crisis shelter called Ayalzat with funding from the Ministry of Health and Social Development to counter domestic violence. There was space for 60 women and children.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Although prohibited by law, the practice of kidnapping women and girls for forced marriage continued. In 2018 the United Nations estimated kidnappers forced approximately 14 percent of girls younger than age 24 into marriage. Men married to kidnapped brides were more likely to abuse their wives and limit their pursuit of education and employment. The negative effect of the practice extended to children of kidnapped brides. Observers reported there was a greater frequency of early marriage, polygamy, and bride kidnapping in connection with unregistered religious marriages. This also affected data availability on such marriages. In 2018 the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that over the previous five years, 895 individuals registered complaints with law enforcement authorities regarding bride kidnapping. Victims did not file criminal cases against the perpetrators in almost 80 percent of the cases, while police and prosecutors criminally investigated the remaining cases. Some victims of bride kidnapping went to the local police to obtain protective orders, but authorities often poorly enforced such orders. NGOs continued to report that prosecutors rarely pursue kidnappers for bride kidnapping. The law establishes penalties for bride kidnapping of 10 years in prison and a fine.

On April 5, four men abducted and killed 27-year-old Aizada Kanatbekova in a case of bride kidnapping. Although the kidnapping was captured by security cameras and Kanatbekova’s relatives reported it to police immediately, the perception that police delayed the launch of an investigation caused significant public outrage. On April 15 in response to Kanatbekova’s kidnapping and murder, civil society groups organized demonstrations in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. More than 40 police officers, including the Bishkek city police chief, were subsequently dismissed.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits physical sexual assault but not verbal sexual harassment. Police did not actively enforce these laws. Media reported on widespread sexual harassment in the workplace and on public transportation.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Societal attitudes discouraged the use of contraception, especially outside of marriage, and local NGOs and the UN Population Fund reported that women were often denied access to reproductive healthcare due to societal barriers.

The government did provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception. Reproductive health advocates said that although clinical guidelines mandate the provision of a sexual and reproductive health services to sexual violence survivors, many clinics lack the resources to provide a full range of services. The government provided contraceptives for certain groups of women, including those with disabilities and HIV-positive women.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, but enforcement of the law was poor, and discrimination against women persisted.

Data from NGOs working on women’s issues indicated women were less healthy, more abused, less able to work outside the home, and less able than men to determine independently the disposition of their earnings.

Laos

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of “a person” and provides for penalties of four to six years’ imprisonment; there is no law against spousal rape. Sentences are significantly longer and may include life imprisonment if the victim is younger than age 18 or is seriously injured or killed. Rape cases tried in court generally resulted in convictions with sentences ranging from three years’ to life imprisonment.

Domestic violence is illegal but often went unreported due to social stigma. In September an advocate for women’s rights said gender-based violence had increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Enforcement of the domestic violence law varied, and observers reported that violence against women in rural areas was rarely investigated. Penalties for domestic violence, including battery, torture, and detention of persons against their will, may include both fines and imprisonment. The law grants exemption from penal liabilities in cases of physical violence without serious injury.

The Lao Women’s Union and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, in cooperation with NGOs and the Counseling and Protection Center for Women and Children in Vientiane, assisted victims of domestic violence by operating shelters, providing a hotline telephone number, and employing counselors.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not criminalize sexual harassment, but indecent sexual behavior toward another person is illegal and may be punished by six months to three years in prison. Victims rarely reported sexual harassment, and its prevalence remained difficult to assess.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

UNFPA reported that information on and access to sexual and reproductive health services were limited, especially for unmarried youth. Social and cultural barriers restricted access to contraception. Contraceptive commodities were not widely available in rural areas and were often unaffordable.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services to survivors of sexual violence, including access to emergency contraceptives, where available.

According to 2017 UN estimates, the maternal mortality rate was 185 deaths per 100,000 live births, and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 150. Pregnancy and childbirth remained a leading cause of death among women of reproductive age due to limited prenatal and obstetric care and services as well as high rates of adolescent pregnancy, especially in rural areas. According to UNFPA, very few medical centers were equipped to deal with obstetric emergencies, especially in small or ethnic minority villages. The adolescent birth rate remained high at 83 births per 1,000 girls between ages 15 and 19.

Discrimination: The law provides equal rights for women and men and equal pay for equal work, but in some regions traditional attitudes about gender roles kept women and girls in subordinate positions and prevented them from equally accessing education, employment, and business opportunities. The law also prohibits discrimination in marriage and inheritance, although varying degrees of culture-based discrimination against women persisted, with greater discrimination practiced by some ethnic minority groups in remote areas.

The Lao Women’s Union operated countrywide to promote the position of women in society, including by conducting programs to strengthen the role of women; programs were most effective in urban areas. Many women occupied decision-making positions in the civil service and private business, and in urban areas their incomes were frequently higher than those of men. Poverty continued to affect women disproportionately, especially in rural and ethnic minority communities.

Latvia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law specifically criminalizes rape regardless of gender. Spousal rape is explicitly considered rape with “aggravated circumstances.” Criminal penalties for rape range from four years’ to life imprisonment. The government effectively enforced the law.

When police receive a report of rape, they are required to open an investigation. Through September police initiated 53 criminal charges for rape against 27 individuals, of which 17 cases were sent to the prosecutor’s office. Because the Ministry of Justice does not distinguish between spousal rape and nonspousal rape cases, there were no reports available on whether any spousal rape case was prosecuted.

The law provides a broad definition of violence that includes physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence. Domestic and intimate-partner violence is criminalized and considered an aggravating factor in certain criminal offenses. There are penalties for causing even “minor” bodily harm when the survivor and perpetrator are spouses, former spouses, or civil partners. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment.

The law allows police to investigate domestic violence without a survivor’s prior approval and criminalizes stalking. The law allows survivors of domestic violence to request that police officers issue an order for the eviction of the perpetrator for eight days. Upon such a request, police must react immediately, on the spot if necessary. Only courts can issue restraining orders and must respond to such requests within one business day. Once a restraining order is issued, it remains in force until a court revokes it.

Domestic violence remained a serious problem and increased due to COVID-19. NGOs stated reports of domestic violence increased during the summer months, when the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. Another increase of reports took place after NGOs completed a domestic violence public awareness campaign in January, perhaps because of heightened public awareness. Through August police initiated 158 criminal proceedings for domestic violence and detained 57 persons. In the same period, police issued 364 restraining orders. NGOs stated that in some domestic violence cases, police and doctors were reluctant to act or arrest domestic partners. NGOs also stated police and doctors sometimes minimized the seriousness of the accusations when responding to reports of abuse. Domestic abuse complaints to police resulted in a slight rise in the rate of citations, although NGOs still viewed this as insufficient.

Police throughout the country are required to use standardized protocols to report and investigate gender-based violence, including domestic violence. Responding police officers are required to complete and send electronically an evaluation checklist to the social service of the relevant local government within one working day.

There was a government-run safe shelter designated specifically for battered and abused women in the Tukums municipality. The government provided state funding to shelters. There was one government-funded survivor support hotline and several NGO-managed crisis hotlines; none was dedicated exclusively to rape or assault reports. The government hotline referred survivors to an appropriate NGO for further support.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment was prosecuted under discrimination statutes. Penalties range from a reprimand to imprisonment. Victims have the right to submit complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman and the State Labor Inspectorate. During the year there was one complaint of sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The law requires transgender persons to be sterilized before their gender identity is legally recognized.

The country’s cultural norms and concerns regarding potential violations of “virtue” laws limited consistent education in schools on sexual and reproductive health. The law obliges schools to provide students with a “moral education” that reinforces traditional (heterosexual) values regarding marriage and family life. As a result, many teachers avoided educating adolescents regarding reproductive health and contraception.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides for equal treatment of women. The government enforced its antidiscrimination laws effectively. There were instances of hiring and pay discrimination against women, particularly in the private sector (see section 7.d.).

Lebanon

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and the use of threats or violence to claim a “marital right to intercourse,” although it does not explicitly outlaw spousal rape. While the government effectively enforced the law, its interpretation by religious courts in cases brought before them, and not to civil courts, precluded full implementation of civil law in all provinces, such as in the case of an abused wife compelled to return to her husband under personal status law, despite battery being outlawed. The minimum prison sentence for a person convicted of rape is five years, or seven years for raping a minor. The law no longer frees rapists from prosecution or nullifies their convictions if they married their victims.

The law criminalizes domestic violence, calls for provision of shelters, gives women the ability to file a restraining order against the abuser, and assigns special units within the ISF to receive domestic violence complaints. NGOs alleged that the definition of domestic violence was narrow and as a result did not provide adequate protection from all forms of abuse, such as spousal rape. Although the law provides for a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for battery, religious courts could cite personal status law to require a battered wife to return to a home shared with her abuser. Some police, especially in rural areas, treated domestic violence as a social, rather than criminal, matter.

NGOs and activists criticized the domestic violence law, claiming that it does not sufficiently protect victims or punish abusers, who they alleged often received disproportionately light sentences.

Police and judicial officials worked to improve their management of domestic violence cases, but they noted that social and religious pressures – especially in more conservative communities – led to underreporting of cases. Some victims, often under pressure from relatives, sought arbitration through religious courts or between families rather than through the justice system. There were reports and cases of foreign domestic workers, usually women, suffering from mistreatment, abuse, and in some instances rape or conditions akin to slavery.

According to women’s rights NGO KAFA, victims reported that police responses to complaints submitted by battered or abused women improved during the reporting period. During the year ISF and judicial officials received training on best practices for handling cases involving female detainees, including victims of domestic violence and sexual exploitation. NGOs that provided services to such victims reported increased access to potential victims in ISF and DGS custody. The ISF continued its practice of alerting its human rights unit to all cases involving victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable groups, so officers could track the cases and provide appropriate support to victims.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ISF encouraged reporting of domestic violence including raising awareness on social media of their hotline for abuse survivors. NGO ABAAD was quoted in 2020 saying that the government needed to increase services and availability of shelters to keep up with demand.

The Women’s Affairs Division in the Ministry of Social Affairs and several NGOs continued projects to address sexual or gender-based violence, such as providing counseling and shelter for victims.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: In February 2020 dozens of women gathered in front of the Higher Islamic Shia Council to protest the law giving full child custody to the father automatically upon divorce. The organizers, Protecting Lebanese Women and the National Campaign to Raise the Age of Custody, called for raising the age of custody (age of emancipation) recognized by Shia courts. The protest was in reaction to a widely viewed video of a woman sneaking into the funeral service of her late daughter, who had been killed by stray bullets. The mother had lost custody of both her children when she filed for divorce, and her husband had forbidden her to attend the funeral.

Marriage is governed by 18 different sect-based personal status laws, and all sects allow girls to be married before age 18.

Sexual Harassment: A law criminalizing sexual harassment was adopted by parliament in December 2020. Despite the new law sexual harassment remained a widespread problem that ranked among the October 2019 protesters’ most vocal complaints. On September 22, the Public Prosecution pressed charges against journalist and director Jaafar al-Attar for sexual harassment and referred the case to the Beirut criminal judge. A group of women pressed charges against al-Attar on May 26 for sexual harassment after posting their experiences under the hashtag #Expose_the_harasser and #Believesurvivors. The investigation was ongoing at year’s end. This was the only case in the year where the Public Prosecution pressed charges for sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to manage their reproductive health.

Women, including survivors of sexual violence, generally had the information and means to manage their reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, although women in rural areas faced social pressure on their reproductive choices due to long-held societal values. According to a 2017 study conducted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the most recent available, 32 percent of male respondents indicated that their wives used oral contraceptive pills, while 32 percent of female respondents indicated that they used natural methods; followed by 29 percent using intrauterine devices; 4.6 percent tubal ligation; and the remainder using female condoms, hormonal injections, or suppositories.

There were no known reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: Women suffered discrimination under the law and in practice, including under the penal and personal status codes. The constitution does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sex. In matters of marriage, child custody, inheritance, and divorce, personal status laws provide unequal treatment across the various confessional court systems but generally discriminate against women. All 18 recognized religious groups have their own personal status courts responsible for handling these matters, and laws vary depending on the religious group. For example, Sunni religious courts apply an inheritance law that provides a daughter one-half the inheritance of a son. Religious law on child custody matters favors the father in most instances, regardless of religion. Sharia courts weigh the testimony of one man as equal to that of two women. Nationality law also discriminates against women, who may not confer citizenship to their spouses and children, although widows may confer citizenship to their minor children born of a citizen father. By law women may own property, but they often ceded control of it to male relatives due to cultural norms and family pressure. The law does not distinguish between women and men in employment and provides for equal pay for men and women, although workplace gender discrimination, including wage discrimination, exists.

Since 2018 divorced women have been allowed to include the names of their children on their civil records.

Liechtenstein

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense. Penalties for rape and sexual violence vary between six months’ and 15 years’ imprisonment, depending on the degree of violence and humiliation of the victim, and between 10 years’ and lifetime imprisonment if the victim is killed. The penalties are the same for rapes of women and men. The government effectively prosecuted individuals accused of such crimes.

The law prohibits all forms of domestic violence and provides for restraining orders against violent family members. Police may prohibit an abuser from returning to the victim’s home where the violence was committed. Penalties for domestic violence range from monetary fines to lifetime imprisonment if the victim is killed. According to the law, victims who migrated to the country and who have been married to a citizen for less than five years are required to prove their victim status or sufficient integration into the country’s society to avoid losing their marriage-based residence permits. The government enforced the law effectively.

In 2020 there were 75 police interventions registered under the law against spousal abuse, 24 of which led to criminal charges. Witnesses’ willingness to testify in abuse cases sometimes limited efforts to prosecute cases.

In 2020 the country’s only women’s shelter, Frauenhaus, assisted 10 women affected by domestic violence. Frauenhaus provided counseling in 51 cases related to spousal violence. The women’s resource and counseling NGO Infra was contacted 30 times regarding violence against women. The Association for Male Questions counseled four men (one perpetrator and three victims) on spousal violence and received three men in its shelter.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine, and the government effectively enforced these prohibitions. Stalking is a criminal offense. The government also considers “mobbing,” including pressure, harassment, or blackmail tactics in the workplace, to be a crime. In 2019 the national police recorded three cases of sexual harassment, and Infra assisted survivors in 21 cases of sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men. The government’s enforcement of the labor contract and equal opportunity law was not entirely effective. According to the LHRA, the main problem was that victims do not bring potential cases of discrimination to court. A lack of judicial precedents also leaves it unclear what practices and policies companies should adopt to comply with the laws governing discrimination. According to the LHRA, the Department for Equal Opportunity continued to face decreases in human and financial resources that prevented it from being more visible to the public and raising awareness.

Lithuania

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women and men as well as domestic violence are criminal offenses. Penalties for domestic violence depend on the level of injury to the victim, ranging from required public service to life imprisonment. In the first eight months of the year, authorities received 61 reports of rape, compared with 63 during the same period in 2020. Convicted rapists generally received prison sentences of three to five years. No law specifically criminalizes spousal rape, and no data on spousal rape was available.

Although the law criminalizes domestic abuse, it remained a pervasive problem. In the first eight months of the year, police registered 4,206 criminal offenses related to domestic violence, compared with 7,126 in 2020. According to the Department of Statistics, 17 domestic violence-related femicides were registered in the first eight months of the year, compared with 28 in 2020 and 21 in 2019. The law permits rapid government action in domestic violence cases. For example, police and other law enforcement officials may, with court approval, require perpetrators to live separately from their survivors, to avoid all contact with them, and to surrender any weapons they may possess. According to the Department of Statistics, 80 percent of survivors of domestic violence were women. The government allocated 1.35 million euros ($1.55 million) to NGOs working in the field of domestic violence prevention.

According to a July 2020 survey by the Women’s Information Center, only 15 percent of those surveyed who had experienced domestic violence had contacted police. From April to September the Department of Statistics carried out a survey, which collected statistics on abuses of personal security at work, the prevalence and nature of domestic violence, and the provision of assistance to survivors.

The government operated a 24/7 national hotline and 29 crisis centers for survivors of domestic violence. In September 2020 the government adopted its Action Plan for Domestic Violence Prevention and Assistance to Victims for 2021 and allocated 1.17 million euros ($1.35 million) for the year.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. The law defines sexual harassment as offensive verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, towards a person with whom they work, conduct business, or have other relations. Harassment is defined in the same law as unwanted conduct related to the sex of a person that occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, and creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive environment. Pretrial investigations of sexual harassment were relatively rare, and survivors were often blamed as the cause of the harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The country lacked consistent sex education programs, and there was a lack of publicly available information of contraception as a method of family planning. Contraception and medical advice were hard to access for many teenagers. According to the Human Rights Coalition, some young women and girls in rural areas, mostly Roma, had limited access to reproductive health services and contraceptives due to poverty, social stigma, and lack of parental consent.

According to the Department of Statistics, in 2020 girls younger than 18 gave birth to 109 children. According to the Lithuanian Society of Obstetricians, teenage pregnancy was closely linked to social marginalization, with many girls coming from vulnerable families. On September 7, the EOO determined that the procedure for reimbursing assisted reproduction was discriminatory because it was available only to women up to age 42, contrary to the Law on Equal Opportunities.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. The Center for Combating Human Trafficking and Exploitation, which provides social, psychological, and legal services to survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and sexual abuse, noted that medical personnel conducting gynecological examinations often treated survivors in an accusatory or insensitive manner. The country had no rape crisis center, but a network of specialized NGOs provided social, psychological, health, and legal assistance to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. A national women’s helpline also assisted survivors.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The government enforced the law effectively. Women continued to experience unequal access to pension benefits and the gender wage gap remained significant, leaving women more exposed to poverty risk (see section 7.d.).

Luxembourg

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape of both women and men, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. Penalties for violations range from five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits domestic violence, and the government effectively enforced the law. The law is gender-neutral and provides for the removal of abusers from their residences for a 14-day period that can be extended once for an additional three months upon request of the victim. Penalties may include fines and imprisonment. Police are required to investigate if an NGO reports having been approached by an individual for assistance in cases involving domestic abuse.

According to the most recent report published during the year, authorities investigated 144 accusations of indecent assault and 116 cases of rape in 2020, representing modest increases over the previous year. For example a man was taken to court on September 28 for allegedly having raped five women. The case remained open as of October.

Police also intervened 943 times in domestic violence situations, and prosecutors authorized 278 evictions of the abuser from the domestic home as a result of these incidents, which represent an increase of 11.1 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively, over the same period in the previous year. For example, after being presented a restraining order prohibiting entry to his domicile in Diekirch, due to charges of domestic violence, a man violated the restraining order to confront his spouse. On December 17, 2020, the man was detained, and the case is under judicial review.

The government funded organizations that provided shelter, counseling, psychosocial assistance, and hotlines. The government provided financial assistance to victims of domestic violence.

The Ministry of Equality between Women and Men operated a prevention website to raise awareness against the different types of violence against women, including psychological, sexual, and domestic violence, and provided victims with telephone numbers available for assistance services as well as contact information for police.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits gender-based sexual harassment and requires employers to protect employees from such harassment. Disciplinary measures against offenders included dismissal. The law considers an employer’s failure to take measures to protect employees from sexual harassment a breach of contract, and an affected employee is entitled to paid leave until the situation is rectified. In 2020 the Labor Inspection Court received no cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.

In its 2020 report to parliament and the government, the Center for Equal Treatment (CET) again noted that the law does not give the Court for Inspection of Labor and Mines (ITM) the means to punish perpetrators of sexual harassment, even though the court is responsible for applying provisions against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Vulnerable populations such as individuals with disabilities and minorities must provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception is available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law effectively. In 2020 the CET reported handling 39 cases of potential gender-based discrimination.

Malawi

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and girls with a maximum penalty of death for conviction. A 2015 law explicitly introduced the concept of spousal rape, but the act does not prescribe specific penalties for conviction and applies only to legally separated spouses. Spousal rape may be prosecuted under the rape provisions of the penal code. The government generally enforced the law effectively, and convicted rapists routinely received prison sentences.

Data on the prevalence of rape or spousal rape, prosecutions, and convictions were unavailable; however, press reporting of rape and defilement (statutory rape) arrests and convictions were an almost daily occurrence. Although the maximum penalty for conviction of rape is death or life imprisonment, the courts generally imposed lesser prison sentences. For cases of conviction of indecent assault on women and girls, the maximum penalty is 14 years’ imprisonment. A person convicted of indecent assault on a boy younger than age 14 may be imprisoned for up to seven years.

The Ministry of Gender, Community Development, and Social Welfare and donor-funded NGOs conducted public-education campaigns to combat domestic sexual harassment, violence, and rape.

The law provides a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for conviction of domestic violence and recognizes that both men and women may be perpetrators as well as victims. Domestic violence, especially wife beating, was common, although victims rarely sought legal recourse. Police regularly investigated cases of rape, sexual assault, and gender-based violence but did not normally intervene in domestic disputes. Police support units provided limited shelter for some abuse survivors.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not specifically prohibit FGM/C. There were no national statistics on FGM/C. The practice of labia elongation or pulling has been documented. It was performed on girls ages 11 to 15 during sexual initiation camps in rural areas of the Southern Region.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The law prohibits harmful social, cultural, or religious practices, including “widow cleansing” and “widow inheritance.” Nonetheless, in some areas widows were sometimes forced to have sex with male in-laws or a designee as part of a culturally mandated “sexual cleansing” ritual following the death of the husband. In some cases widows were “inherited” by a brother-in-law or other male relative. The government and NGOs sought to abolish such practices by raising awareness concerning the inherent dangers of such behavior, including the risk of HIV transmission.

Kupimbira, a practice that allows a poor family to receive a loan or livestock in exchange for pubescent daughters, existed in some areas.

Despite certain legal prohibitions, many abusive practices, including the secret initiation of girls into the socially prescribed roles of womanhood, continued. Such initiations were often aimed at preparing girls for marriage with emphasis on how to engage in sexual acts. In some traditional communities, girls as young as 10 undergo kusasa fumbi, a “cleansing ritual” in which the girls are raped by men. According to one UN-sponsored study in 2018, more than 20 percent of girls in secondary school underwent a form of initiation that involved rape by an older man.

Sexual Harassment: Although sexual harassment was believed to be widespread, there were no data on its prevalence or on the effectiveness of government enforcement of the law. The law makes conviction of sexual harassment punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and places an obligation on government to have policies and procedures aimed at eliminating sexual harassment. Conviction of “insulting the modesty” of a woman is a misdemeanor punishable by one year’s incarceration. Conviction in extreme cases, such as indecent assault on a woman or girl is punishable by sentences of up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

On March 29, the MHRC released a report which alleged former director general of the state-owned broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Aubrey Sumbuleta sexually harassed eight female employees. The report recommended compensation for victims and Sumbuleta’s prosecution for indecent assault. The report resulted from an investigation initiated in response to a July 2020 petition calling for Sumbuleta’s dismissal. On April 17, Sumbuleta was arrested and soon after was charged on six counts of indecent assault and abuse of office. He was released on bail on May 20.

In April the MHRC launched the country’s first workplace sexual harassment policy. The policy aims to safeguard employees and persons seeking services at the MHRC from unwelcome sexual advances and provide them with reporting guidelines. The policy provides the mechanism for handling complaints, actions to be taken against perpetrators and strategies for assisting survivors, including accessing legal remedies.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children.

Health-care clinics and local NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on family planning under the guidance of the Ministry of Health. Access to contraceptives was limited in rural areas. According to the 2016 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (MDHS), 58 percent of girls and women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods. The government provided free childbirth services, but availability depended upon access to hospitals and other medical facilities in rural areas.

The MDHS estimated the maternal mortality rate was 439 deaths per 100,000 live births, and a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 41. HIV and AIDS and adolescent pregnancy were factors in these high rates. Nurses and midwives were a critical component of prenatal and postnatal care due to a shortage of doctors. According to the National Statistical Office, skilled health-care providers assisted in 90 percent of births in 2018. There was only limited access to emergency obstetric care, particularly in rural areas.

Cultural beliefs regarding menstruation and lack of access to menstruation hygiene resources impacted women’s and girls’ ability to participate equally in society, including limiting girls’ access to education. Cultural practices in some regions traditionally excluded menstruating women and girls from participation in social activities, such as forbidding them from talking to male figures or being present where food is being cooked. UNICEF reported that increased availability of menstruation hygiene products such as reusable pads in recent years decreased absenteeism of women and girls in school and in the workplace but stated that lack of access to appropriate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities continued to be a problem. Factors such as pregnancy, economic hardship, and marriage were the main reasons that girls drop out of school. The country has policies allowing reentry for adolescent mothers. Pregnant students are suspended for one year. They can apply for readmission after this period only by sending requests to the Ministry of Education as well as the school. Many teachers have not seen the policy and were unsure how to implement it.

Discrimination: By law women have the same legal status and rights as men and may not be discriminated against based on gender or marital status, including in the workplace. Nevertheless, women had significantly lower levels of literacy, education, and formal and nontraditional employment opportunities, as well as lower rates of access to resources for farming. Widows often were victims of discriminatory and illegal inheritance practices in which most of an estate was taken by the deceased husband’s family. Although citizen men may sponsor their wives for naturalization, the law does not permit citizen women to sponsor their husbands for naturalization.

The government addressed women’s concerns through the Ministry of Gender, Community Development, and Social Welfare. The law provides for a minimum level of child support, widows’ rights, and maternity leave; however, few knew their rights or had access to the legal system and thus did not benefit from these legal protections.

Malaysia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women or men is a criminal offense, as are most forms of domestic violence. Rape is punishable by a maximum 20 years’ imprisonment and caning. The law does not recognize marital rape as a crime.

Women’s groups asserted the courts were inconsistent in punishing rapists. The NGO Women’s Aid Organization reported that from January through September, it received 1,662 complaints involving domestic violence, and the number of survivors seeking shelter increased one and a half times during the same period. There was a lack of investigation into accusations of rape and gender-based violence, and little accountability.

In January a male inmate raped a 16-year-old girl, also an inmate, at a local police station in Miri, Sarawak State. The NGO EDICT declared police violated the legal mandate that at least one female officer be assigned to take care of underage female inmates. Police suspended two officers pending investigation.

Although the government and NGOs maintained shelters and offered other assistance to victims of domestic violence, activists asserted that support mechanisms remained inadequate. Many government hospitals had crisis centers where victims of rape and domestic abuse could file reports without going to a police station. There was also a sexual investigations unit at each police headquarters to help victims of sexual crimes and abuse, and police sometimes assigned psychologists or counselors to provide emotional support. NGOs reported that the government did not take action in cases of domestic violence; victims must keep evidence, gather witness testimony, and ensure their own safety.

In 2020 the NGO Women’s Aid Organization reported that 9 percent of women who had ever been in a relationship experienced domestic violence and such violence was “symptomatic of a deeper problem: gender inequality.” A November report by the organization found that 53 percent of respondents believed domestic violence was a “normal” reaction to stress or frustration, and 43 percent believed a woman could so anger a man that he hit her without meaning to, suggesting a culture deeming such violence acceptable “when perceived as an emotional gesture, or in the event the victim has behaved in a way that triggers the abuse.” In Penang State, police as of July recorded a 35 percent increase in domestic-violence cases compared to 2020. Penang police chief Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain observed that factors driving the rise in domestic violence were pressure and stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law does not prohibit FGM/C, and it was a common practice among Muslim and some indigenous communities. While recent data was very limited, a 2012 study by a professor at the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Malaya, found that more than 93 percent of approximately 1,000 Muslim women surveyed in three of the country’s 13 states had undergone the procedure. Ministry of Health guidelines allow the practice in general but only at government health-care facilities, which was not always the case. Advocates and the international medical community remained concerned that the Health Ministry endorsement legitimizes the harmful practice and contributes to the “medicalization” of FGM. Women’s rights groups contended a 2009 fatwa by the National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs declaring the practice obligatory made FGM/C more prevalent. According to an investigation published by local media in 2018, there are no standard procedures for the practice and “in some cases box cutters and stationery store blades are used.” Government officials defended the practice during a UN review in 2018, when a Ministry of Health official stated that the practice was performed only by medical professionals and compared it to immunization programs for female babies. The UN panel urged the country to abolish the practice.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits a person in authority from using his or her position to intimidate a subordinate by any conduct that is sexual in nature. The law classifies some types of workplace sexual harassment as criminal offenses (see section 7.d.). A government voluntary code of conduct provides a detailed definition of sexual harassment intended to raise public awareness of the problem. Observers noted that authorities took claims seriously, but victims were often reluctant to report sexual harassment because of the difficulty of proving the offense and the lengthy trial process.

In April two members of parliament accused then deputy inspector general of police Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani, since promoted to inspector general, of trivializing a rape threat made against a teenage girl. In separate statements Batu Kawan member Kasthuri Patto and Petaling Jaya member Maria Chin Abdullah criticized Acryl Sani for his remarks about a police report made by a student, age 17, that a classmate had threatened to rape her after she called out her teacher for making jokes about rape. Acryl Sani was reported to have commented that the classmate’s rape threat was possibly a joke. After this incident, more than 300 former and sitting students issued anonymous statements, with the hashtag #MakeSchoolsASaferPlace, recounting sexual harassment and abuse they had experienced at school by teachers and fellow students.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

In April, news portal Malaysiakini submitted to the Ministry of Education a list of 15 schools that allegedly required female students to undergo intrusive physical examinations to prove that they were menstruating and hence exempted from prayers. Malaysiakini reported that the practice of period spot checks dated as far back as 20 years. The measures included school officials forcing girls to show their blood-soaked sanitary pads; doing swabs of their vaginas with cotton buds, tissues, or fingers; or patting them down to feel if they were wearing a sanitary pad.

Cultural barriers and government policies impeded access to sexual and reproductive health services. For example, sexual health education remained limited for all women, although more accessible for married women than for unmarried women. Reproductive awareness advocates and NGOs that provided sexual health education were frequently accused of encouraging sin and eliciting sexual behaviors. Government-run family planning clinics often would not provide contraceptive services to unmarried young persons.

One-Stop Crisis Centers, an integrated multiagency service in the emergency department of most major public hospitals, provided support, including emergency contraception, to victims of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The constitution prohibits discrimination against citizens based on gender and gives men and women equal property rights, although sharia, which deviates from these principles in some areas, was sometimes applied. For instance, Islamic inheritance law generally favors male offspring and male relatives. Sharia also generally requires a husband’s consent for divorce, but a small and steadily increasing number of women obtained divorces under sharia without their husband’s consent. Non-Muslims are not subject to sharia. Civil law gives non-Muslim mothers and fathers equal parental rights, while sharia favors fathers. Nevertheless, four states – Johor, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, and Pahang – extend equal parental rights to Muslim mothers.

The law requires equal pay for male and female workers for work of equal value. Nonetheless, NGOs reported continued discrimination against women in the workplace in terms of promotion and salary (see section 7.d.).

Maldives

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape against both men and women including spousal rape. The law also criminalizes domestic violence, including physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, and financial abuse. The law also extends protection to wives against being forcibly impregnated by their husbands and includes an extensive list of other abuses for which protection is provided. The law allows courts to issue restraining orders in domestic violence cases and criminalizes any actions violating these orders. A man may be convicted of rape in the absence of a confession only if there are two male witnesses or four female witnesses willing to testify. In the case of a child, the burden of proof is lower. Penalties if convicted range from four months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment, depending on factors such as the age of the survivor.

NGOs and other authorities continued to report MPS officers were reluctant to make arrests in cases of violence against women within the family. Reportedly, this made survivors reluctant to file criminal cases against abusers. While the MPS received 954 reports of domestic violence as of September, it investigated only 346 cases and recommended charges in only 28 cases. Of these 28 cases, charges were brought in just six cases as of September. The MPS received 86 reports of rape and sexual assault as of September, investigated 55 complaints, and recommended charges in seven cases. Of these seven cases, charges were filed in just three as of September. Human rights activists conducted social media campaigns throughout the year and in May staged protest in Male to express concern regarding inadequate investigations of rape and child sexual abuse cases and the impunity of offenders.

Human rights activists alleged in February government officials intervened to lift a travel ban against former tourism minister Ali Waheed, indicted for sexual harassment and attempted rape. Waheed left the country and as of October had not returned.

The Ministry of Gender, Family, and Social Services received reports of rape, sexual offenses, and domestic violence and conducted social inquiry assessments of cases it submitted to the MPS. It also provided psychological support to survivors during MPS investigations. To streamline the process of reporting abuses against women and children, the ministry operated family and children’s service centers on every atoll. During the year the ministry operated residential facilities at eight of the centers and opened five domestic violence shelters to provide emergency shelter to domestic violence and other survivors. Authorities and NGOs reported the service remained understaffed and under resourced. Staff employed at the centers lacked technical capacity and were forced to divide their time between administrative duties and casework.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No cases of FGM/C were reported to government authorities during the year. Since 2014 some religious leaders have intermittently called to revive the practice, and in November 2020, a popular individual associated with a religious NGO reportedly called for a resumption of female circumcision. In July the Maldives National University dismissed Assistant Professor Mohamed Iyaz Latheef because of his social media posts allegedly promoting female circumcision. NGOs and women’s rights activists continued to express concern the government has failed to publicly denounce or counter calls for revival of female circumcision.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: By law only Maldivian Islamic law penalties may be imposed for conviction of hadd (robbery, fornication, homosexual acts, alcohol consumption, apostasy) and qisas (retaliation in kind) offenses. Although this was not enforced, penalties may include hand amputation for theft and stoning to death for adultery.

Sexual Harassment: The law bans sexual harassment in the workplace, detention facilities, and any centers that provide public services. NGOs reported that while the law requires all government offices to set up sexual harassment review committees, a significant number of government offices had failed to establish these committees or, in cases where the committees had been set up, employees were unaware of their existence.

The MPS reported referring three out of a total of 54 received cases of sexual harassment for prosecution. In November 2020 former tourism minister Ali Waheed was indicted for sexual harassment and attempted rape. In February he left the country and as of October had not returned.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Extramarital sex is criminalized and childbirth out of wedlock is stigmatized.

Limited public information on reproductive health services was available for unmarried individuals. NGOs and activists expressed concern that adolescents’ access to information on reproductive health rights and services was extremely limited. They also noted in smaller island communities, contraceptives were only available at a single heath center or pharmacy on each island, leaving unmarried couples reluctant to access them due to social stigma.

Health-care facilities generally provided reproductive health services only to married couples. A centralized system of health-care provision is a significant barrier to access for health-care services on islands outside the capital region. Reportedly, men often influenced or controlled the reproductive health decisions of women. Youth access to reproductive health information and services was especially limited, and cultural attitudes prevented youth from accessing what limited services were available from health facilities.

NGOs reported that the government provided access to emergency contraceptives for sexual violence survivors. NGOs reported public health services provided psychosocial support and medical attention for a limited period immediately following instances of sexual violence. Access to these services through private health-care providers was costly or unavailable, especially outside Male.

Discrimination: The law provides for same legal status and rights for women and for men in religious, personal status and nationality laws and laws related to labor, property, access to credit and owning or managing business and property and prohibits gender discrimination including in workplaces, educational institutions, and service providers, such as hospitals, but discrimination against women remained a problem. Islamic shariah governs inheritance of private property which behests male heirs twice the share of female heirs. Women’s rights activists reported that women who initiated divorce proceedings faced undue delays in court as compared with men who initiated divorce proceedings. According to women’s rights activists, there were no policies in place to provide equal opportunities for women’s employment, despite provisions in the constitution and the law.

Mali

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men, with a penalty of five to 20 years’ imprisonment for conviction, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. Rape was a widespread problem. Authorities prosecuted only a small percentage of rape cases. Survivors seldom reported rapes due to societal pressure, particularly because attackers were frequently close relatives, and due to fear of retaliation. No law explicitly prohibits spousal rape, but law enforcement officials stated that criminal laws against rape could apply to spousal rape. Police and judicial authorities investigated rape cases but were also willing to stop pursuing cases if parties privately reached an agreement prior to trial. This promoted an environment where survivors might be pressured by family to accept monetary compensation instead of seeking justice through the legal system.

In the June 1 report of the UN secretary-general to the UN Security Council on the situation in the country, MINUSMA documented at least two cases of conflict-related sexual violence. According to the report, the cases included the gang rape of a woman by unidentified armed individuals in the city of Menaka on March 27 and the mid-March gang rape of a Fulani woman. The latter was allegedly committed by members of the Dozo ethnic group in Niono, Segou Region.

Domestic violence against women, including spousal abuse, was prevalent. A 2012-13 gender assessment found a vast majority of women in the country suffered from domestic violence. The assessment concluded that 76 percent of women believed it was acceptable for a man to beat a woman for burning food, arguing, going out without telling the man, being negligent with children, or refusing to have sexual intercourse. The 2018 Mali Demographic and Health Survey concluded that 79 percent of women and 47 percent of men believed this behavior was justified. The survey found 49 percent of women experienced spousal violence (emotional, physical, or sexual), 43 percent of women ages 15 to 49 experienced physical violence, and one in every eight women experienced sexual violence. Of women who experienced domestic violence, 68 percent never sought help or told anyone.

Spousal abuse is a crime, but the law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence. According to human rights organizations, most cases went unreported because of cultural taboos and a lack of understanding regarding legal recourse. Conviction of assault is punishable by prison terms of one to five years and substantial fines. The sentence may be increased up to 10 years’ imprisonment if the assault is found to be premeditated. Police were often reluctant to intervene in cases of domestic violence. Many women were reluctant to file complaints against their husbands due to financial dependence concerns, or to avoid social stigma, retaliation, or ostracism. The Planning and Statistics Unit in the Ministry of Justice, established to track prosecutions, did not produce reliable statistics.

The United Nations reported an increase in conflict-related sexual violence attributable to extremist armed elements and signatory armed groups in the northern and central parts of the country. UNHCR and NGOs serving refugees and asylum seekers reported rising incidences of gender-based violence against refugees, asylum seekers, and IDPs, attributed to the deterioration of the protective environment for women and girls. Of 3,744 cases of gender-based violence against IDPs reported between January and June, more than half were rapes and physical assaults that took place while women carried out daily activities such as collecting water or firewood and traveling locally. UNHCR reported 196 cases of gender-based violence in the refugee population as of August 31. UNICEF reported that it provided more than 108,000 women and children with access to services related to the mitigation of, prevention of, or intervention in cases of gender-based violence.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is legal in the country and, except in certain northern areas, all religious and ethnic groups practiced it widely, particularly in rural areas. Although FGM/C is legal, authorities prohibited the practice in government-funded health centers.

Parents generally had FGM/C performed on girls between ages six months and nine years. According to the 2018 Mali Demographic and Health Survey, 89 percent of women ages 15 to 49 were circumcised, but this varied widely by geographic location, with rates ranging from 2 percent in Gao to more than 95 percent in Koulikoro and Sikasso. Approximately 76 percent of circumcisions occurred prior to age five, and circumcision was almost always performed by a traditional practitioner (99 percent). According to the survey, approximately 70 percent of men and 69 percent of women believed excision was required by religion and three-quarters of the population, regardless of gender, believed the practice should continue. Government information campaigns regarding the dangers of FGM/C reached citizens throughout the country where security allowed, and human rights organizations reported decreased incidence of FGM/C among children of educated parents.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, which routinely occurred, including in schools, without any government efforts to prevent it.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

While no government policy adversely affected access to contraception, women and girls faced cultural and social barriers such as needing the consent of their husbands and influential members of the household to manage their reproductive health.

Distant health-care facilities and flooded roadways during rainy season negatively affected the ability of those living in rural areas to easily access adequate health care.

In accessing information regarding their reproductive health, women with disabilities faced distinct barriers, such as physical barriers to entry into health-care facilities, communication barriers, discriminatory and disrespectful treatment from health-care providers, and the lack of reproductive health information in accessible formats.

While government sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, were available to survivors of sexual violence, including survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, the services were rarely specialized and survivors often sought care from general health facilities. Through Spotlight, an initiative supported by the European Union, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Women, the country provided specialized assistance to survivors of gender-based violence, including family planning counseling, at the referral-health-center level via 10 “one-stop centers” in Bamako, Gao, Mopti, Kayes, and Koulikoro.

The maternal mortality rate was estimated at 325 per 100,000 live births, and 67 percent of women delivered in health centers assisted by skilled health workers. The key drivers of maternal mortality included poor access to and use of quality prenatal, delivery, and postnatal care services. The primary direct obstetric causes of maternal mortality were hemorrhage (37 percent), eclampsia (11 percent), and sepsis (11 percent). FGM/C was a significant public-health problem that contributed to maternal morbidity. According to UNFPA, the adolescent birth rate was 164 births per 1,000 girls.

There are no legal barriers related to menstruation or access to menstruation hygiene. Sociocultural barriers, however, impeded equal participation of women and girls in society in certain instances. Educational materials on menstrual hygiene management were scarce, and teachers often lacked knowledge on puberty and menstrual hygiene management. In a 2020 NGO study, more than a quarter of girls reported developing a genital condition related to improper menstrual hygiene, and 14 percent of girls missed classes due to pain during a menstrual cycle. According to the same study, more than half of girls attending school had problems concentrating in class due to menstrual periods, and menstruation caused three-quarters of girls to miss school due to the need to go home to change menstrual products to avoid embarrassment.

No law impedes adolescent girls’ access to education due to pregnancy or motherhood status. The law allows for the deferment, upon request, of education in secondary school for pregnant students. Many girls and their families were not informed of their rights and social stigma still prevented pregnant girls from attending school. Additionally, a lack of childcare was a barrier to girls’ access to education due to motherhood status.

Discrimination: The law does not provide the same legal status and rights for women as for men, particularly concerning divorce and inheritance. Women are legally obligated to obey their husbands and are particularly vulnerable in cases of divorce, child custody, and inheritance. There were legal restrictions on women holding employment in the same occupations, tasks, and industries as men. Women had very limited access to legal services due to their lack of education, lack of information, and the prohibitive cost. Despite the discriminatory nature of the law, the government effectively enforced it. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children, and the Family is responsible for providing for the legal rights of women.

While the law provides for equal property rights, traditional practices and ignorance of the law prevented women from taking full advantage of their rights. The marriage contract must specify if the couple wishes to share estate rights. If marriage certificates of Muslim couples do not specify the type of marriage, judges presume the marriage to be polygynous.

According to MINUSMA, extremist groups were responsible for intimidating and threatening women into “modesty” by forcing women in the regions of Timbuktu and Mopti to wear a veil. Reportedly, in the Dianke area of Timbuktu, several unveiled women were threatened, while in Binedama in the Mopti Region, all women were forced to wear a veil.

Malta

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense, and the government effectively prosecuted such crimes. Through August, seven persons faced rape charges in court. The law criminalizes domestic violence and treats the offense as an aggravating circumstance of other crimes such as bodily harm, rape, and harassment, and the government generally enforced the laws prohibiting it. Sentences for conviction range from three months to 20 years in prison. Through August courts arraigned 913 individuals on charges related to domestic violence. Several previous convictions were pending sentencing at year’s end.

A Gender-Based Domestic Violence Unit under the Vice Squad was based at police general headquarters. The unit, which includes three police inspectors and 18 staff members, is solely dedicated to addressing domestic violence problems and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity was responsible for a government-supported shelter for women and children. The government also provided financial support to other shelters, including those operated by the Roman Catholic Church. The government’s Foundation for Social and Welfare Services provides a national telephone hotline to assist abuse survivors through counseling and shelter referrals. Several NGOs supported survivors of all forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence.

In June Minister of Justice Edward Zammit Lewis and the prime minister’s spouse, Lydia Abela, launched the second national strategy on gender-based and domestic violence. The strategy focuses on increasing awareness and streamlining policies to provide for timely prosecution of perpetrators. The action plan is based on four pillars: integrated policies and data collection; prevention; protection and support; and prosecution.

Sexual Harassment: The criminal code makes conviction of sexual harassment punishable by a monetary fine, up to two years’ imprisonment, or both. A separate legal provision makes conviction of sexual harassment at the workplace punishable by a fine, imprisonment of not more than six months, or both. As of September the NCPE had received one allegation of sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The country’s ban on abortions allows no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life or health.

Social barriers and government policies adversely affecting the supply of contraceptives limited individuals’ ability to exercise of birth control.

The government provided limited access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including in matters related to family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Redress in the courts is available for gender discrimination, and the government enforced the law effectively. Although women have the same legal status as men, they experienced discrimination in employment (also see section 7.d.).

Mauritius

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape, including of men. Although the law does not mention spousal rape, it stipulates that a spouse cannot force or threaten the other partner into a sexual act “from which the spouse or the other person has the right to abstain.”

Police and the judicial system did not effectively enforce the law, according to local NGOs that work with domestic violence survivors. The penalty for rape is up to 20 years’ imprisonment, with a substantial monetary fine. Rape cases rarely make the headlines unless they are egregious in nature.

The law criminalizes domestic violence, but it remained a major problem. The term “spouse” unmarried couples of the opposite sex; defines “domestic violence” to include verbal, psychological, economic, and sexual abuses; and empowers officers to act on behalf of the survivors instead of waiting for a formal complaint from the survivor.

The government did not consistently enforce the law. According to women’s rights NGOs, police were not always effective in protecting domestic violence survivors to whom authorities had granted court protection orders. Authorities prosecuted crimes including assault, aggravated assault, threats, and blows under the criminal code, but law enforcement recordkeeping did not always indicate whether they were linked to domestic violence.

The law provides for protection and housing rights for survivors, as well as counseling for the abuser; however, counseling for the abuser is not mandatory, and there were few shelters available to survivors. By law the penalty for violating a protection order is a monetary fine and imprisonment not to exceed one year for the first offense, two years for a second offense, and up to five years’ imprisonment for subsequent offenses. The government operated a mobile phone application, the Family Welfare App, to facilitate reporting of domestic violence and child abuse.

On January 31, police arrested a man after fatally stabbing his girlfriend after she broke up with him following two years of domestic violence. The case was underway at year’s end.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, which is punishable by up to two years in prison, but sexual harassment continued to be a problem due to lax enforcement and because survivors often did not believe filing a complaint would resolve anything. There were, however, an increasing number of women denouncing sexual harassment cases on social media platforms.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to manage their reproductive health. They had access to the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. No legal, social, or cultural barriers or government policies adversely affected access to contraception, and all types of contraception were available at retail stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. Individuals younger than age 18 required parental permission to access health services. Individuals were able to access contraception and skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as essential obstetric and postpartum care that the state provided free of charge in government-run hospitals. Emergency health care was available, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Medical staff, however, must report any postabortion complications, which meant many women did not seek medical assistance. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available over the counter.

There were no reports of legal, social, or cultural barriers, including harmful practices, related to menstruation and access to menstruation hygiene that impacted women and girls’ ability to participate equally in society, including any limits on a girl’s access to education.

Discrimination: Men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights under the constitution and law. The courts upheld these rights. Nonetheless, cultural and societal barriers prevented women from fully exercising their legal rights, especially in some cases involving inheritance.

Micronesia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Sexual assault of women or men, including rape, is a crime. There is no specific law against spousal rape. Sexual assault involving a dangerous weapon or serious physical or psychological harm to the victim is punishable by a maximum nine years’ imprisonment in Chuuk and 10 years’ imprisonment in the other three states, and a fine. If neither a dangerous weapon nor serious physical harm is involved, the assault is punishable in all states by a maximum five years’ imprisonment and a fine. Due in part to social stigma, family pressure, fear of further assault, or the belief that police would not involve themselves in what is often seen as a private family matter, such crimes were underreported, and authorities prosecuted few cases. According to police and women’s groups, there were several reports of physical and sexual assaults against women, both citizens and foreigners, outside the family context.

Reports of domestic violence, often severe, continued during the year. Although assault is a crime, effective prosecution of offenses was rare. Pohnpei State police stated they would not arrest anyone in a domestic violence scenario if the parents of both individuals involved in the altercation were present. The traditional extended family unit deemed violence, abuse, and neglect directed against spouses or children as offenses against the entire family, not just the individual victims, and addressed them by a complex system of culturally defined familial sanctions. Traditional methods of coping with family discord were breaking down with increasing urbanization, monetization of the economy, and greater emphasis on the nuclear family in which victims were isolated from traditional family support. No institution, including police, has succeeded in replacing the extended family system or in addressing directly the problem of family violence.

The national government operated shelters in Chuuk and Pohnpei that were available to all victims of sexual, domestic, and human trafficking crimes. The Pohnpei Department of Public Safety’s program against domestic violence included a hotline to handle domestic violence cases. The national government hotline to handle possible cases of human trafficking also reported receiving domestic and sexual assault calls.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and anecdotal reports suggested it occurred.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provided support to survivors of sexual violence in the form of counseling and legal and medical assistance, including emergency contraception, in partnership with nongovernmental organizations.

Discrimination: Women have equal rights under the law, including the right to own property, and there were no institutional barriers to education or employment for women. The government enforced the law effectively. The largest employers were the national and state governments, and they paid female employees equal pay for equal work although this is not mandated by law. Societal discrimination against women continued, however, and cultural mores encouraged discriminatory treatment for women. Examples of discrimination against women included many instances of women being pressured to stop their higher educational pursuits once they become pregnant. Women were also discouraged from returning to school once the child was born.

Moldova

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law defines domestic violence as a criminal offense, provides for the punishment of perpetrators, defines mechanisms for obtaining restraining orders against abusive individuals, and extends protection to unmarried individuals and children of unmarried individuals. The law covers five forms of domestic violence – physical, psychological, sexual, economic, and spiritual. The maximum punishment for family violence offenses is 15 years’ imprisonment. The law also criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and forcible sexual assault and establishes penalties for violations ranging from three years to life in prison. It requires, however, that victims prove they were subjected to violence. Domestic violence resulting in “nonsignificant bodily harm” falls under the contraventions code, rather than the criminal code, and may be punished by a fine or community service. The law provides for cooperation between government and civil society organizations, establishes victim protection as a human rights principle, and allows third parties to file complaints on behalf of survivors.

Civil society organizations set up a platform of 23 NGOs nationwide, including in the Transnistria region, called the National Coalition for Life without Violence, which contributes to the reduction of domestic violence and promotes the human rights of victims of gender-based violence. The international NGO La Strada operated a hotline to report domestic violence, offered victims psychological and legal aid, and provided victims options for follow-up assistance. The Women’s Law Center also offered legal, psychological, and social support to domestic violence victims. An additional two centers provided counselling and resocialization services to aggressors.

Rape remained a significant problem, and there were no specific governmental rape prevention activities. Marital rape was rarely reported, as 50 percent of women considered that sexual intercourse during marriage was a marital obligation. Survivors of violence were often revictimized by the system and subjected to negative social stigmas. Legislative gaps, negative social stigma, and fear of revictimization contributed to a culture of impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence. Few survivors of sexual offenses reported the crimes. In 2020 survivors faced additional obstacles in reporting sexual violence due to quarantine measures imposed by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government did not take sufficient measures to develop specialized health services for survivors of sexual violence. Public information on forensic bodies examining sexual violence cases was unavailable, which limited survivors’ access to specialized services. In September the General Police Inspectorate’s Criminal Investigation Department introduced internal guidelines and procedures for the effective investigation of sexual assault crimes, but enforcement was delayed because of a lack of a relevant legal framework.

Between January and October police registered 1,913 domestic violence cases, including 16 domestic violence cases that resulted in death and 10 cases of marital rape. The General Police Inspectorate issued 4,656 emergency restraining orders, and courts issued 600 protection orders. Police registered 4,690 domestic violence abusers.

The law authorizes the Ministry of Justice to use electronic devices for monitoring accused abusers in domestic violence cases. According to National Probation Inspectorate (NPI) official data, during the year the agency issued 492 protection orders requiring abusers to wear electronic monitoring devices. Prior to using the devices, the NPI reported a 70 percent recidivism rate among abusers. During the year the NPI reported a 19.65 percent recidivism rate. The NPI also registered and filed cases against 80 abusers who broke protection order rules.

During the year police and human rights NGOs continued to report an increase in domestic violence complaints. COVID-19 quarantine measures, social distancing, restrictions on freedom of movement and other pandemic-related restrictive measures contributed to this increase. According to a 2020 study conducted by La Strada, more than 90.4 percent of persons who experienced domestic violence were women. From January to November, La Strada’s Women and Girls’ Trust Line received 1,780 calls, including 1,068 complaints of domestic violence, a significant increase over 2020 when 390 calls were received during the same period. According to La Strada, the number of calls from urban areas was 50 percent higher than the number of calls from rural areas. The number of calls was reportedly influenced by the increased effectiveness of police interventions in domestic violence cases. Police interventions were more effective because of the hotline, which routed all calls from women and girls reporting domestic violence to a special office trained to respond to domestic violence cases.

According to La Strada, the subject of sexual violence remained sensitive in the country. The most frequent sexual violence crime was rape. In Transnistria domestic violence without “substantial bodily harm” (such as broken bones or a concussion) remains an administrative, rather than criminal, offense that is only punishable by a fine.

Survivors of domestic violence in Transnistria are not protected by the “law,” which lacks a definition of domestic violence and does not allow for domestic violence cases to be distinguished from other crimes, which resulted in the absence of official statistics on the number of domestic violence cases. According to local NGOs, as of October 31, the Trustline hotline for preventing domestic violence registered 1,340 calls. According to the NGO Rezonans Center, one in 10 residents in the region believed that a husband has the right to beat his wife. Transnistrian “authorities” often did not take any action when women were beaten by male abusers.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a problem. The law provides criminal penalties for sexual harassment ranging from a fine to a maximum of three years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits sexual advances that affect a person’s dignity or create an unpleasant, hostile, degrading, or humiliating environment in a workplace or educational institution. There are no criminal penalties or civil remedies for sexual harassment in employment. According to NGOs law enforcement agencies steadily improved their handling of sexual harassment cases, addressing harassment of students by university professors and several instances of workplace harassment. Civil society groups, however, criticized the judicial system for displaying inadequate concern for the safety of victims and for not holding perpetrators accountable for their behavior.

A study on sexual harassment in educational institutions conducted May to November by the Partnership Development Center and East European Foundation found that only 35 percent of students viewed inappropriate looks and gestures, unwarranted hugs, and the use of words with sexual connotations as sexual harassment. The study showed that female students were better informed to identify sexual harassment cases compared to their male counterparts. One in five students interviewed confirmed that he or she was sexually harassed during their lifetime, and more than 40 percent of these students did not report the cases or request support.

According to a 2020 informative note on a bill published by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Social Protection calling for the review of national legislation on sexual harassment, one in five women in the country experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Societal attitudes and lack of interest from law enforcement discouraged victims from reporting instances of sexual harassment.

A 2020 study by the Women’s Law Center and the Women in Police Association, Women in police: Perceptions about sexual harassment, revealed a high number of incidents of women in law enforcement who were victims of sexual harassment. According to the study, 7.9 percent of women in the police force confirmed they were victims of sexual harassment, and every fourth woman experienced unwarranted comments regarding their private life or the way they looked. One in 10 women experienced instances of sexual harassment, such as staring at their bodies, inappropriate looks, or inappropriately sexual conversations. The women reported that 71 percent of the perpetrators of harassing behavior were coworkers, while 22.4 percent of women admitted they received threats, coercion, or the promise of professional benefits from superiors. Every seventh respondent (14.5 percent) answered that she remained silent when she experienced an act of sexual harassment. Nearly one-quarter of respondents (23.2 percent) did not report harassment out of fear they would not be taken seriously. Half of women employed in the police force was not sure if she could safely report an act of sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The law provides that minors under the age of 16 must have permission from a parent or legal guardian to obtain reproductive health services; a medical provider may waive this requirement if the minor’s life or health are in danger. The state provides contraception free of charge to citizens through primary care providers. Although minors have access to contraception without parental consent through a network of Youth-Friendly Health Centers, many were reluctant to request contraception from family doctors due to social stigma.

As in previous years, women continued to face discrimination and difficulties in accessing health information and health care, particularly women in rural areas, women with special needs, displaced women, ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, sex workers, drug users, HIV-positive women, refugees, undocumented migrants, stateless women, women with disabilities, and single mothers. Marginalized women faced exclusion, stigmatization, and discrimination, which often kept them in poverty and impeded their access to public services. Teenagers and young women in rural areas had particularly limited access to accurate information on reproductive and sexual health.

According to a report released in March by the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights, the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls in residential institutions and psychiatric hospitals were not respected. Many of the girls interviewed by the institute in 2020 did not have basic knowledge concerning life skills and their sexual and reproductive rights which would impact their future ability to live independently and set up families following deinstitutionalization. The institute noted that female residents in these institutions did not have knowledge regarding contraceptives or free access to hygiene products. The personnel were not properly trained to provide qualified medical counsel on sexual and reproductive rights. In addition, these institutions were characterized by a stereotype that women with disabilities did not require sexual-reproductive education because they did not have sex or the capacity to become parents.

Victims of sexual violence had access to sexual and reproductive health services on the same basis as other citizens. Emergency contraception was not universally available to survivors as part of clinical management of rape. Emergency contraception was only provided by family doctors and was not available in emergency centers.

Discrimination: Women and men have the same legal status in family, labor, property, nationality, inheritance law, and in the judicial system. The law requires that women fill a minimum of 40 percent of decision-making positions in government and political offices, including a minimum quota of 40 percent of candidates for parliament on the electoral lists of political parties, distributed evenly across the entire electoral list, and sanctions for noncompliance. During the July parliamentary elections, 46.5 percent of candidates were women, of which 42.7 percent were among the top 10 on the party lists. The 101-member parliament includes 40 women.

While the law strictly forbids discrimination and spells out employers’ responsibilities in ensuring that workplaces are free of discrimination and sexual harassment and prohibits sexist and discriminatory language and images in the media and advertising, discrimination remained a significant problem. Women experienced discrimination in the workplace (see section 7.d.). In addition, some political candidates and media outlets used misogynistic rhetoric during the campaign season for the July parliamentary elections.

According to a 2020 report issued by the Union for HIV Prevention and Harm Reduction and Promo-LEX, female drug users, sex workers, and inmates were the most vulnerable to multiple risks, such as HIV or AIDS, human trafficking, harassment, and violence due to discrimination, criminalization, stigmatization, and exclusion from society. Despite such vulnerabilities, authorities did not protect basic rights to health care and justice for women in these categories.

The law requires equal pay for equal work, but discrimination with respect to employment, pay, and access to pension benefits persisted in the country (see section 7.d.).

Monaco

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense with penalties of five to 20 years in prison, depending on the type of offense. The law prohibits domestic violence, and victims may bring criminal charges against abusive spouses. Domestic violence that leads to a significant injury carries a potential sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison. The government enforced the law effectively.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a criminal offense with penalties of three months to three years in prison, depending on the type of offense. The government enforced the law efficiently. There were no reports of sexual harassment during the year.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Through the program Aid to Victims of Infractions, the government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides for the equality of men and women. The government enforced the law effectively.

Mongolia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The criminal code criminalizes forced or nonconsensual sexual intercourse or sexual acts that involve the use or threat of physical violence, abuse a position of authority (financial or official), or take advantage of the victim’s incapacity to protect himself or herself or object to the commission of the act due to mental illness, temporary loss of mental capacity, or the influence of drugs or alcohol, and provides for sentences of one to 20 years’ imprisonment or life imprisonment, depending on the circumstances. The criminal code criminalizes spousal rape. Domestic violence is also a crime, for which perpetrators can be punished administratively or criminally, including in the latter case by a maximum of two years’ imprisonment. The government maintains a nationwide database of domestic violence offenders, and those who commit a second domestic violence offense are automatically charged under criminal law.

Despite continued attention, domestic violence remained a serious and widespread problem. The National Center against Violence reported some victims had difficulty reporting abuse because of COVID-19 related lockdowns. Combating domestic violence is included in the accredited training curriculum of the police academy and in all police officer position descriptions.

The National Center against Violence reported a 25 percent increase in domestic violence in the second half of 2020. They attributed this rise to school closures and restrictions on movements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NHRC noted in its annual report that domestic violence crimes increased by 30 percent. The NRHC report also concluded that the multiple lockdowns imposed during the pandemic may have increased domestic violence incidents and limited chances for victims to seek protection.

A special national police unit is dedicated to combating domestic violence. There were 20 shelters and 17 one-stop service centers for domestic violence survivors run by police, a variety of NGOs, local government agencies, and hospitals. All shelters followed standard operating procedures developed by the National Center against Violence. The one-stop service centers, located primarily at hospitals, provided emergency shelter for a maximum of 72 hours. The relatively small number of shelters located in rural areas presented a problem for domestic violence victims in those areas.

Sexual Harassment: The criminal code does not address sexual harassment. NGOs said there was a lack of awareness and consensus within society of what constituted inappropriate behavior, making it difficult to gauge the extent of the problem. Upon receiving a complaint of sexual harassment, the NHRC may investigate, after which it may send a letter to the employer recommending administrative sanctions be levied against the accused party.

In April women accused a member of parliament, Anandbazar, of workplace sexual harassment that took place in 2019, before he was elected to parliament. The allegations spurred a nascent #MeTooMongolia movement, urging the legislator’s party, legislators, and law enforcement to pursue justice for the victims. The Mongolian People’s Party suspended Anandbazar from party activities and its parliamentary caucus. As of October, no legal action has been taken in this case.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Two NGOs confirmed that, despite a May directive from the Ministry of Education and Science banning the practice, girls continued to be subjected to gynecological examinations (without prior notification or parental consent) at some rural schools. The exams, reportedly to check for signs of sexual abuse and sexually transmitted disease, were commonly known as virginity tests.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception for rape survivors is offered within five days.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights to women and men, including equal pay for equal work and equal access to education. These rights were generally observed, although women faced discrimination in employment. As of November, the NHRC had received 25 complaints of discrimination: nine based on social status, four on disability, three on ethnicity, two on beliefs and education, one on age, one on property ownership, one on employment, and four on sexual orientation.

The law sets mandatory minimum quotas for women in the government and political parties. It also prohibits discrimination based on sex, appearance, or age, although some NGOs noted authorities did not enforce this provision. By law women must comprise at least 15 percent of political appointees to government positions at the national, provincial, and capital city levels; 20 percent at the district level; and 30 percent at subdistrict levels. The law also requires that women must represent at least 25 percent of a political party’s senior leadership. Women were underrepresented at the highest levels of government, although representation improved marginally following June 2020 parliamentary elections. Of the country’s 16 cabinet ministers, four were women. Of the 76 members of parliament, 13 were women. While the gender quota was met in most jurisdictions following the 2020 local elections, Bayan-Ulgii Province failed to meet the quota at the provincial and some subprovincial levels.

In most cases a divorced wife retained custody of any children, but divorced husbands were often not penalized for failing to pay child support. Women’s rights activists said that because family businesses and properties usually were registered under the husband’s name, ownership continued to be transferred automatically to the former husband in divorce cases.

The National Committee on Gender Equality, chaired by the prime minister and overseen by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, coordinates policy and women’s interests among ministries, NGOs, and gender councils at the provincial and local levels. The government’s National Program on Gender Equality 2017-21 and its related action plan seek the economic empowerment of women and equal participation in political and public life.

Montenegro

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: These acts are illegal, and authorities generally enforced the law. In most cases the penalty provided by law for rape, including spousal rape, is one to 10 years in prison, although the law permits lower sentences in cases where there are exceptionally extenuating circumstances or a significant lack of evidence. Actual sentences were generally lenient, averaging three years. Judges often used questionable methods, including forcing confrontations between victims and perpetrators, to assess the credibility of victims. NGOs expressed concern about the security of the courtrooms where victims were often forced to meet with abusers. On more than one occasion, the NGO Safe Women’s House has reported perpetrators physically attacked domestic violence survivors in the courtroom during the trial and in view of the judge. The NGO emphasized the problem of very small courtrooms where victim and perpetrator sit very close to one another without police protection.

Domestic violence is generally punishable by a fine or a one-year prison sentence. According to UNICEF data, 42 percent of Montenegrin women experienced intimate partner violence during their lifetime, while just 12 percent of survivors reported the violence to authorities. According to NGO reports, domestic violence survivors continued to experience difficulties having their cases prosecuted in the judicial system, promoting an atmosphere of impunity for abusers. This problem was further compounded by the additional constraints on prosecutors and the courts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases police were quick to dismiss allegations of domestic violence, particularly for young couples, noting that the problems would be resolved over time. When their cases were tried in court and they received a judgment in their favor, survivors noted the sentences imposed on perpetrators were lenient and dominated by suspended sentences and fines. Lengthy trials, economic dependency, societal norms, and a lack of alternative housing often forced survivors and perpetrators to continue to live together.

Police response to domestic violence was also reported to be substandard, with officers often counseling women to “forgive” their attackers or to “not harm their (the attackers) job prospects.” Cases involving perpetrators who were also public officials remained problematic. In the case of a police officer who attacked and injured a woman in a nightclub in 2019, the Basic Prosecutor’s Office stated that in his actions there were no elements of a criminal offense, and charges were not pressed, so police filed a misdemeanor report against him. Other institutions’ responses were also problematic. According to NGOs, social centers have increasingly taken actions to keep victims and abusers together in order to preserve the family structure or pay one-time assistance for rent, rather than accommodating victims in licensed shelters and providing other needed support to them, including psychological and legal support.

On September 30, a 19-year-old woman was killed by her common-law husband, who also severely injured her father. Her husband subsequently turned himself in to police after protesters gathered in Tuzi to demonstrate support for the victim’s family and push authorities to investigate, a call echoed by the prime minister. At year’s end it remained unclear whether charges were filed over the killing. The victim had previously filed a complaint in August against her husband, from whom she had separated, for constant harassment and threats. In response, police filed a complaint against the man for threatening his wife. The Basic Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica, however, determined that there were no elements of a criminal offense, sending the case to the Misdemeanor Court, which acquitted the suspect.

On October 21, a husband killed his wife in their family house in Petnjica and then committed suicide. According to police, their 15-year-old daughter was seriously injured in the incident. A month later, the minister of interior acknowledged failures by police officers in this case. The minister explained that the victim’s son had reported an incident of violence involving his parents to the Center for Social Work months prior to the killing, which the center forwarded to police. Despite this, police did not visit the scene of the incident, electing instead to conduct a telephone interview of the husband without interviewing the wife or her children. Based on this interview, police concluded that there was no reason to go to the scene and the situation was calm. The case was closed until the killing occurred a few months later. At year’s end the officers involved were under internal review to determine responsibility.

In July President Milo Djukanovic pardoned Tomas Boskovic, who had been sentenced in June to 30 days in prison for illegally preventing his former wife from seeing their minor children for three years. The former wife was a victim of domestic violence. The president signed the pardon according to the opinion of the head of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the minister of interior. NGOs dealing with human rights and protection from domestic violence and violence against women strongly protested the president’s decision to pardon convicted family abuser Tomas Boskovic, who, according to them, continuously abused his parental rights, disrespected the law and court decisions, and worked against the interests of his minor children by not allowing them to have contact with their mother for three years. With this decision, NGOs stated, the president encouraged illegal behavior and disrespect for court decisions to the detriment of children and discouraged all parents who struggle to contact their children in accordance with court decisions. They also stated that by this act, the government committed outrageous institutional discrimination against women and children who are victims of violence and violated legally binding international standards, primarily the standards of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Istanbul Convention.

Domestic violence remained a persistent and common problem. The law permits survivors to obtain restraining orders against abusers. When the abuser and survivor live together, authorities may remove the abuser from the property, regardless of ownership rights. This was rarely done, and NGOs reported that, as a result of the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 restrictive measures, women were spending more time with abusers. Domestic violence was a serious problem in all communities.

According to NGOs and the ombudsman, female survivors of domestic violence often complained that government-run social welfare centers did not respond adequately to their appeals for help. NGOs reported that state institutions did not provide physical protection for survivors.

The government, in cooperation with an NGO, operated a free hotline for victims of family violence. The NGO SOS Line Niksic, which ran the hotline, reported a steady rise in domestic violence cases since 2019, driven by both increased reporting and the economic and psychological stresses of COVID-19. From January to May, they hosted 38 possible survivors of domestic violence (both women and children) in their shelter, 55 percent higher than the same period in the previous year. The government promoted use of the NGO SOS Hotline in Niksic, and the UN Development Program (UNDP) developed the mobile application “Be safe” as tools for domestic violence survivors to call for help. NGOs continued to report that, despite some progress, particularly in the law, government agencies responded inadequately to prevent domestic violence and help survivors recover.

According to NGOs, because of the restrictive COVID-19 measures, authorities failed to address domestic violence in a timely manner, leaving survivors with limited support. The NGO Women’s Rights Center stated that perpetrators often confiscated victims’ cell phones and not all survivors were able to use digital tools, which limited reporting. The NGO Women Safe House stated that the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic exposed women who lived with violent partners to even greater control and violence. According to a Women’s Safe House focus group survey, key reasons why women decided not to report the violence were fear of the perpetrator, uncertainty over the pandemic, lack of family support, and lack of trust in state institutions. More than two-thirds of women who participated in the focus group believed that bad economic conditions, isolation, and feelings of uncertainty contributed to the increase in domestic violence during the pandemic.

In 2020 local NGOs reported a case in which police in Niksic refused to accept a complaint and call for help of a Romani survivor of domestic violence seeking safe refuge at a police station, despite being accompanied by a caseworker from the NGO Center for Roma Initiatives. The survivor, a trafficking victim who entered the country illegally in 2019 after escaping a forced marriage in Kosovo, had been forced to marry a man in Bar, then marry a man in Herceg Novi. During both marriages, the survivor faced domestic violence, including seizure of her personal documents. Upon fleeing to stay with acquaintances in Niksic, she faced an attempted rape by a family friend. While in Niksic, the survivor was advised by the Center for Roma Initiatives to file a complaint with police concerning her abuse. Because the survivor was from Kosovo, police refused to act without first receiving permission from a health inspector due to COVID-19 restrictions. The inspector required the survivor and the NGO caseworker to self-isolate for 14 days, a period later extended to 28 days. Homeless and unable to find accommodation due to the self-isolation requirement, the survivor spent the night in front of the police station with her infant, after which she returned to her abuser, as she risked facing criminal charges for violating public health measures. The Center for Roma Initiatives continued to advocate on her behalf with police, who finally allowed her to be accommodated at an NGO-run shelter in mid-April 2020. The Ministry of Interior’s Department for Combatting Trafficking in Persons took up the survivor’s case, and in June 2020 she was transferred to the Shelter for Victims of Trafficking in Persons. Officials investigated the case as human trafficking rather than as domestic violence; the Higher Court in Podgorica prosecuted one man for trafficking in persons in connection with the case.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Child marriage continued to be a problem in Romani communities (see section 6, Children, subsection on Child, Early, and Forced Marriage). Although illegal, in many Romani communities, the practice of paying a traditional “bride price” of several hundred to several thousand euros for girls and women to be sold into or purchased from families across the border in Kosovo or Albania led to concerns about trafficking in persons. The potential to be “remarried” existed, with some girls being sent back to their families, then being resold, and the money then given to the former spouse’s family. These practices were rarely reported, and police rarely intervened, viewing the practices as “traditional.” These practices led to girls withdrawing from school at a rate much higher than boys, limiting their literacy and ability to provide for themselves and their families, essentially trapping them in these situations.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not defined as a crime under the law. According to the Center for Women’s Rights, sexual harassment, including street harassment, of women occurred often, but few women reported it. Public awareness of the problem remained low. Victims hesitated to report harassment in the workplace due to fears of employer reprisals and a lack of information about legal remedies. Stalking or predatory behavior with physical intimidation is punishable by law with a fine or up to three years’ imprisonment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The country continues to require sterilization to confer legal recognition of gender identity for transgender individuals. While free health care was available to citizens, health-care costs acted as a barrier for noncitizens and those lacking identification documents to access regular prenatal care. Due to poor education and living conditions, Romani and Balkan-Egyptian women seldom visited gynecologists, obstetricians, or any other doctors and had the least access to family planning counseling and gynecological services. Seeking to improve knowledge of reproductive rights within the Romani and Balkan-Egyptian community, the Center for Roma Initiatives organized a series of focus groups with the intention of developing a targeted action plan on improving Romani and Balkan-Egyptian reproductive health. Romani and Balkan-Egyptian women able to access these services often reported discriminatory treatment, including verbal harassment. Women outside these communities also reported verbal harassment when accessing reproductive health services. NGOs noted that such harassment was often unreported due to inadequate victim support mechanisms. Depending on the location, there was one gynecologist per 5,000 to 8,000 women, which affected women’s access to routine health services during pregnancy and childbirth.

Although there were no legal barriers to contraception, a 2020 UNFPA report indicated the country had enacted only 37 percent of legislation and regulations necessary to provide for full and equal access to contraceptive services. According to NGOs, there was a lack of publicly available information and appropriate educational programs, and economic status and restrictions by partners were barriers preventing women from using contraception.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, but that did not include emergency contraception. NGOs stated that these services were often not tailored to those experiencing sexual violence and that persons performing examinations sometimes lacked the necessary expertise to prepare a valid forensic report. Victims also often wait up to seven days for an examination, and there is no specialized center for supporting victims of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. All property acquired during marriage is joint property. The government enforced these laws somewhat effectively. The NGO SOS noted, however, that women often had trouble in defending their property rights in divorce proceedings due to the widespread public belief that property belongs to the man. Sometimes women ceded their inherited property and inheritance rights to male relatives due to tradition and pressure from their families. Men consequently tended to be favored in the distribution of property ownership, sometimes limiting a woman’s options in the cases of domestic violence or divorce. Women continued to experience discrimination in salaries and access to pension benefits (see section 7.d.).

The Department for Gender Equality worked to inform women of their rights, and parliament has a committee on gender equality. The government has a 2017-21 strategy on gender equality. In 2020 the government published the Gender Equality Index for Montenegro, one of a series of indices that measures inequalities in EU member states and countries in the EU accession process. On a rating scale of zero to 100, the index measured labor, money, knowledge, time, power, health, and violence. The largest inequality between men and women was noted in the category of power (35.1), followed by time (52.7), knowledge (55.1), money (59.7), and work (65.2). The greatest level of equality was reported in health (86.9).

Female judges who were forced to retire two years ahead of their male peers, per existing law, brought a complaint against the Judicial Council on the ground of discrimination. Throughout the year female political figures were the target of public, misogynistic insults, and occasional death threats, both online and by public figures. For example, in April the minister of education, science, culture, and sport, Vesna Bratic, was depicted in sexist and vulgar caricature with then bishop Joanikije. Local NGOs condemned this incident, stating that the mockery and shame to which Minister Bratic was exposed because of her gender did not, nor could not, have any justification and represented a brutal misogynistic attack on Bratic as a person with the intention to hurt, insult, and humiliate her.

According to Romani rights NGOs, one-half of Romani women between the ages of 15 and 24 were illiterate. Romani women often faced double discrimination based on their gender and ethnicity.

Gender-biased Sex Selection: Although illegal, medical professionals noted that gender-biased sex selection took place, resulting in a boy-to-girl ratio at birth of 110 to 100. The government did not actively address the problem.

Morocco

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law punishes individuals convicted of rape with prison terms of five to 10 years; when the conviction involves a minor, the prison sentence ranges from 10 to 20 years. Spousal rape is not a crime. A 2018 law provides a stronger legal framework to protect women from violence, sexual harassment, and abuse. Under the law a sexual assault conviction may result in a prison sentence of six months to five years and a fine. For insults and defamation based on gender, an individual may be fined up to 60,000 Moroccan dirhams for insults and up to 120,000 Moroccan dirhams for defamation ($6,300 to $12,600). General insult and defamation charges remain in the penal code. The law requires the DGSN, Prosecutor General’s Office, Supreme Judicial Court, and Ministries of Health, Youth, and Women to have specialized units that coordinate with one another on cases involving violence against women. These specialized units receive and process cases of gender-based violence and provide psychological support and other services to victims. In 440 precincts where gender-based violence response units have not been established, a regular police officer was designated to process the cases.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw a spike in domestic abuse because of isolation measures. The government and NGOs expanded programming and outreach that provided shelter, assistance, and guidance for survivors of domestic abuse. According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the government adopted protective measures, such as shelters, for survivors of domestic violence in the first half of the year. On May 28, the government adopted a bill to create a national registry for social support programs for women and children. Several NGOs adapted services provided to survivors of domestic violence, providing hotlines, shelter, resources, guidance, and legal support.

There were reports, however, that these shelters were not accessible to persons with disabilities. Courts maintained “victims of abuse cells” that brought together prosecutors, lawyers, judges, women’s NGO representatives, and hospital personnel to review domestic and child abuse cases to provide for the best interests of women or children.

According to local NGOs, survivors did not report the vast majority of sexual assaults to police due to social pressure and the concern that society would most likely hold the survivors responsible. Some sexual assault survivors also reported police officers at times turned them away from filing a police report or coerced them to pay a bribe to file the report by threatening to charge them with consensual sex outside of marriage, a crime punishable with up to one year in prison. Police selectively investigated cases; among the minority brought to trial, successful prosecutions remained rare.

The law does not specifically define domestic violence against women and minors, but the general prohibitions of the criminal code address such violence. Legally, high-level misdemeanors occur when a survivor’s injuries result in 20 days of disability leave from work. Low-level misdemeanors occur when a survivor’s disability lasts for less than 20 days. According to NGOs, the courts rarely prosecuted perpetrators of low-level misdemeanors. Police were slow to act in domestic violence cases, and the government generally did not enforce the law and sometimes returned women against their will to abusive homes. Police generally treated domestic violence as a social rather than a criminal matter. Physical abuse was legal grounds for divorce, although few women reported such abuse to authorities.

In January 2020 media reported that 20 suspects kidnapped “Oumaima,” a 17-year-old girl, in the Moulay Rachid district (in Casablanca) and then gang raped and abused her for 25 days before she convinced a friend of the perpetrators to assist in her escape. According to the victim’s mother, during confinement, the perpetrators forced the girl to ingest toxic substances to try to kill her. The girl was hospitalized after her escape. The investigation continued.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a crime punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine up to 10,000 Moroccan dirhams ($1,000) if the offense takes place in a public space or by insinuations through texts, audio recording, or pictures. In cases where the harasser is a coworker, supervisor, or security official, the sentence is doubled. Prison sentences and fines are also doubled in cases where a spouse, former spouse, fiance, or a family member commits harassment, physical violence, abuse, or mistreatment, or breaks a restraining order, or if the victim is a minor. Civil society leaders stated they did not observe efforts by the government to enforce the law or provide training on the new law for judicial or law enforcement officials.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Individuals and couples 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. Authorities generally did not discriminate against women in accessing sexual and reproductive health care, including for sexually transmitted infections. Contraception is legal, and most forms were widely available. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the country has invested in increasing the availability of voluntary family planning services, expanding and improving maternal health care, and providing for access to obstetric care by eliminating fees.

The contraceptive pill was available over the counter, without a prescription. Skilled health attendance at delivery and postpartum care were available for women who could afford it, with approximately 75 percent of overall births attended by skilled health personnel.

The country’s maternal mortality rate between 1997 and 2018 declined by 68 percent according to the UN Population Fund. The most recent World Health Organization statistics showed there were approximately 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the country in 2017 and that 37 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 used a modern method of contraception in 2019. The major factors influencing maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence rates were female illiteracy, lack of knowledge about availability of services, cost of services, social pressure against contraceptive use, and limited availability of transportation to health centers and hospitals for those in rural areas. While a 2018 law strengthened penalties for violence against women (see Section 6, Women) and required certain government agencies establish units to provide psychological support and other services to victims of gender-based violence, Human Rights Watch assessed at the time of the law’s passage that it did not sufficiently define the government’s role in providing services to victims. The government responded that it provides services to survivors of sexual assault via the UN Population Fund.

Discrimination: While the constitution provides women equal rights with men in civil, political, economic, cultural, and environmental affairs, laws favor men in property and inheritance. Numerous problems related to discrimination against women remained, including inadequate enforcement of equal rights provided for by the laws and constitution.

According to the law, women are entitled to a share of inherited property, but a woman’s share of inheritance is less than that of a man. Women are generally entitled to receive one-half the inheritance a man would receive in the same circumstances. A sole male heir would receive the entire estate, while a sole female heir would receive one-half the estate with the rest going to other relatives.

Since 2019 the law allows female heirs to inherit, and be titled as owners of, those lands.

The family code places the family under the joint responsibility of both spouses, makes divorce available by mutual consent, and places legal limits on polygamy. Implementation of family law reforms remained a problem. The judiciary lacked willingness to enforce them, as many judges did not agree with their provisions. Corruption among working-level court clerks and lack of knowledge about the law’s provisions among lawyers were also obstacles to enforcing the law.

The law requires equal pay for equal work, although in practice this did not occur.

Nauru

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women or men is a crime and carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment. The law specifically applies penalties for rape of married and de facto partners. Police are required to investigate all reported rape cases. They generally did so, and the courts prosecuted cases. Observers said many instances of rape and sexual abuse went unreported. The law does not address domestic violence specifically, but authorities prosecuted domestic-violence cases under laws against common assault. The maximum penalty for simple assault is one year’s imprisonment. The maximum penalty for assault involving bodily harm is three years’ imprisonment.

Both police and judiciary treated major incidents and unresolved family disputes seriously.

Police officials stated they received frequent complaints of domestic violence, announcing that from March through September, the Domestic Violence Unit “recorded 158 cases of domestic dispute.” In the run-up to the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, the police force presented a two-week daily Facebook series engaging men for behavior change “to shed abusive beliefs and violence.” Families normally sought to reconcile such problems informally and, if necessary, communally.

Sexual Harassment: There is no specific law against sexual harassment, but authorities could and did prosecute harassment involving physical assault under assault laws.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. A 2017 Asian Development Bank report indicated the contraceptive prevalence rate was 25 percent, and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported there was a high unmet need for family-planning commodities. Causes of this unmet need included limited access to adequate sexual health and reproductive services, especially for individuals in the outer islands; perceptions of family-planning services as inconvenient, unsatisfactory, or culturally insensitive; cultural or religious opposition; lack of skills among those dispensing contraceptives and family-planning services; and misconceptions regarding side effects. The government provided some access to sexual and reproductive health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence. Such access, however, was limited by social stigma, cultural practices, and popularly accepted misconceptions. According to UNFPA, access to adolescent reproductive health services and information was limited, and the 2010-16 adolescent birth rate for girls ages 15 to 19 was 94 per 1,000. Other causes of this problem were inadequate access to contraceptives and cultural factors.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under family, religious, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Discrimination in employment and wages occurred with respect to women (see section 7.d.).

Nepal

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including marital rape, is illegal, with minimum prison sentences that vary between five and 15 years, depending on the victim’s age. The law also mandates five years’ additional imprisonment in the case of gang rape, rape of pregnant women, or rape of women with disabilities. The law prohibits interference with a victim’s ability to file a complaint, including through coercion, threat, or force, and the law also prohibited mediation as an alternative to legal action, with a punishment of up to three year’s imprisonment and a fine. If the perpetrator of such coercion or threats is someone holding a public position, he or she will be imprisoned for an additional six months. The law imposes a fine for rape, which should be provided to the survivor as compensation. It also mandates recording the testimony of the survivor when the initial charges are filed at the court to prevent the survivor from later refusing to testify due to coercion or social pressure. The country’s definition of rape does not include male survivors. Male survivors may file a complaint under the ‘unnatural’ sexual offense penal code; the highest punishment is up to three years’ imprisonment and a fine.

Police and the courts were responsive in most cases when rape was reported, although stigma and societal pressure make it difficult for rape victims to secure justice. Government and NGO contacts all report increases in the number of rape and attempted rape cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May 2020 Angira Pasi, a 13-year-old Dalit girl, was raped by Birenda Bhar, a 25-year-old non-Dalit man in Rupandehi District, Devdaha Municipality. Villagers, including the ward chair, decided the girl should marry Bhar, because she would otherwise be considered unsuitable for marriage due to the rape. After the marriage, Bhar’s mother refused to let Pasi enter the house and beat her. Bhar took Pasi to a nearby stream and hours later her body was found hanging in a manner that her relatives said would have been impossible for her to carry out herself. Bhar’s family offered 200,000 rupees ($1,680) to keep the incident quiet, and police initially refused to register the case. After the NHRC and national attention focused on the case, police detained Bhar, his mother, and his aunt. In November 2020, the Butwal High Court released Bhar’s mother and aunt on bail. Bhar remains in police custody and the case is pending trial in Rupandehi District Court.

Human rights activists expressed concern that police outside of Kathmandu frequently refused to register cases of gender-based violence, including occasionally rape cases. These groups reported that police often preferred to use mediation rather than criminal investigation to resolve conflicts. In October 2019, allegations of rape against Speaker of Federal Parliament Krishna Bahadur Mahara led to his resignation at the request of Prime Minister Oli and the ruling Nepal Communist Party. In February 2020, the Kathmandu District Court acquitted Mahara due to lack of evidence after the victim recanted her story, allegedly due to threats. A doctor also questioned her credibility due to the influence of alcohol and history of taking medication for depression. On July 27, the Patan High Court upheld the Kathmandu District Court’s February 2020 decision.

Domestic violence against women and girls remained a serious problem. NGOs reported that violence against women and girls, including early and forced marriage, was one of the major factors responsible for women’s relatively poor health, livelihood insecurity, and inadequate social mobilization and contributed to intergenerational poverty. The law allows for settling complaints of domestic violence through mediation with an emphasis on reconciliation. Authorities usually pursued prosecution under the act only when mediation failed.

The Nepal Police had women’s cells staffed by female officers in each of the country’s 77 districts to make it easier for women and girls to report crimes to police. According to Women, Children and Senior Citizens Service Directors, all 233 women’s cells across the country located in all 77 districts were in operation. NGOs stated that despite improvements, resources and training to deal with victims of domestic violence and trafficking were insufficient. Although police guidelines call on officers to treat domestic violence as a criminal offense, observers reported this guidance was difficult to implement outside of the women’s cells due to entrenched discriminatory attitudes.

The government maintained service centers in 17 districts, rehabilitation centers in eight districts, and hospital-based one-stop crisis management centers in 17 districts to provide treatment, protection, and psychosocial and legal support for survivors of gender-based violence. Gender experts said the service centers have improved coordination among police, the NHRC, National Women’s Commission, chief district officers, local authorities, community mediation centers, and NGOs working to address violence against women and girls.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The constitution criminalizes violence against women or oppression of women based on religious, social, or cultural traditions and gives victims the right to compensation. The penal code makes the practice of paying dowries illegal and imposes fines, prison sentences of up to three years, or both. The law also criminalizes violence committed against one’s spouse in connection to a dowry, imposing substantial fines, prison sentences of up to five years, or both. Additionally, the law stipulates that any psychological abuse of women, including asking for dowry, humiliation, physical torture, and shunning women for not providing a dowry, is punishable. Nevertheless, according to NGOs, dowries remained common, especially in the Terai region. Government agencies documented incidents of dowry-related violence and forced marriage, recommended interventions, and occasionally rescued victims and offered them rehabilitation services.

Traditional beliefs about witchcraft negatively affected rural women, especially widows, the elderly, persons of low economic status, and members of the Dalit caste, despite a law specifically criminalizing discrimination and violence against those accused of witchcraft. In fiscal year 2020-21, the Nepal Police registered 61 cases of witchcraft accusations and subsequent torture, a 74 percent increase over the prior year.

The law criminalizes acid attacks and imposes strong penalties against perpetrators; it also regulates the sale of acids.

The practice of chhaupadi (expelling women and girls from their homes during menstruation and sometimes following childbirth, including forcing women and girls to reside in livestock sheds) continued to be a serious problem. The law stipulates a punishment of up to three months’ imprisonment, a token fine, or both. Some local officials implemented various efforts to eliminate chhaupadi, including education campaigns and physical destruction of sheds, but stigma and tradition maintained the practice, particularly in rural western districts, where women sometimes died from exposure to the elements. According to news reports, after antichhaupadi campaigns destroyed chhaupadi huts, family members, often mothers in law, still forced women and girls to remain isolated. Some women and girls in rural areas resorted to sleeping in sheds, animal pens, or caves throughout the winter and the monsoon season.

Sexual Harassment: The law allows the top administrative official in a district to impose up to six months imprisonment, a fine, or both, against a perpetrator, once a series of internal workplace processes to address a complaint have been exhausted. According to women’s rights activists, the law provides adequate protective measures and compensation for victims, but the penalties are inadequate, and the law does not cover the informal sector, where sexual harassment is most common.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. who became pregnant outside of marriage, especially while working abroad, faced considerable social stigma. Although illegal, child marriage remained prevalent, especially in rural areas, and many girls faced social pressure to have children before being emotionally ready and before their bodies were able to bear children safely. Contraception was available to both men and women, although cultural norms impeded access for adolescents and single women, and some were denied services by individual health workers.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors. Victims of sexual violence had access to sexual and reproductive health services in government hospitals, including emergency contraception, psychosocial counseling, and there were one-stop crisis management centers in each of the 17 districts. Hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley also provide sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of physical and sexual violence.

According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality rate in 2017 was 186 deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 236 deaths in 2015. Skilled birth attendants assisted in 77 percent of deliveries according to the NMICS compared with 56 percent in 2014. The NMICS reported 95 percent of women received antenatal care services and 89 percent were attended to at least once by skilled health personnel. According to the 2015 Health Facility Survey, services for the management of sexually transmitted infections were available in 74 percent of facilities countrywide. Normal childbirth delivery services were available in about half of facilities countrywide, but in only 33 percent of facilities in the Terai region in the south of the country.

Discrimination: The law contains discriminatory provisions. For example, the law on property rights favors men in land tenancy and the division of family property. The constitution, however, confers rights for women that had not previously received legal protection, including rights equal to those of their spouses in property and family affairs, and special opportunities in education, health, and social security.

The constitution does not allow women to convey citizenship to their children independent of the citizenship of the child’s father and has no specific provision for naturalization of foreign husbands married to citizen wives.

For women and girls to obtain citizenship by descent for themselves, regulations require a married woman to submit a formal attestation from her husband, father, or husband’s family (if widowed) that she qualifies for citizenship and has his or their permission to receive it. This requirement makes a woman’s right to citizenship contingent on her father’s or husband’s cooperation. In many cases, husbands refused to provide their wives this attestation. Preventing women from obtaining citizenship documentation precludes their access to the courts and thus their ability to make legal claims to land and other property, which permits the husband or male relatives to stake their own claims.

Although the law provides protection, women faced systemic discrimination, including in employment (see section 7.d.) and especially in rural areas. Dalit women in particular faced gender and caste discrimination. The law grants women equal shares of their parents’ inheritance and the right to keep their property after marriage, but many women were not aware of their rights, and others were afraid to challenge existing practice. The law also grants widows complete access to and authority over the estate of their deceased husbands; the government did not take sufficient measures to enforce these provisions.

Netherlands

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law in all parts of the kingdom criminalizes rape for both men and women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The penalty in the Netherlands for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 12 years, a substantial fine, or both. In the case of violence against a spouse, the penalty for various forms of abuse can be increased by one-third. On Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, the penalty for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 15 years, a substantial fine, or both. Authorities effectively prosecuted such crimes.

The government estimated that each year, approximately 200,000 persons are confronted with serious and repeated domestic violence. Authorities used various tools to tackle and prevent domestic violence, including providing information, restraining orders for offenders, and protection of victims. Reliable crime statistics were not available for the islands.

The governmental Central Bureau of Statistics reported in September that one in five young persons between the ages of 16 and 24 had been a victim of domestic violence between March 2019 and April 2020. The bureau report identified girls were more vulnerable than boys and men were more likely to commit domestic violence, included physical and verbal attacks.

The government continued funding for Safe Home, a knowledge hub and reporting center for domestic abuse with 26 regional branches, as the national platform to prevent domestic violence and support victims. The center operated a national 24/7 hotline for persons affected by domestic violence. The government supported the organization Movisie, which assisted survivors of domestic and sexual violence, trained police and first responders, and maintained a website on preventing domestic violence.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence is treated as regular violence for the purposes of prosecution and does not constitute a separate offense category. Laws against violence were enforced effectively in honor-related violence cases, and survivors were permitted to enter a specialized shelter.

Sexual Harassment: The law penalizes acts of sexual harassment throughout the kingdom and was enforced effectively. The penalty in the Netherlands is imprisonment not exceeding eight years, a substantial fine, or both. The law requires employers to protect employees against aggression, violence, and sexual intimidation. In the Netherlands complaints against employers who failed to provide sufficient protection can be submitted to the NIHR. Victims of sexual assault or rape in the workplace can report the incidents to police as criminal offenses.

On Curacao the Victims Assistance Foundation assists survivors. On Sint Maarten there was no central institution handling sexual harassment cases. According to the law, substantive civil servant law integrity counselors must be appointed for each ministry. These integrity counselors advise civil servants on integrity matters, and the responsible minister must act on the complaint. Aruban law states the employer shall ensure the employee is not sexually harassed in the workplace. Employers are required to keep the workplace free from harassment by introducing policies and enforcing them. Sint Maarten and Curacao also have laws prohibiting stalking.

The Sint Maarten government established a victim support unit. Sexual harassment also qualifies as a criminal offense, in which case prosecution is possible and persons are eligible to receive support.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Some religious and cultural communities discouraged premarital sex, the use of contraception, or both. Although no government policies or legal, social, or cultural barriers adversely affect access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth in the Dutch Caribbean islands, there are barriers on Aruba and Curacao for the large population of undocumented migrants that do not have access to the public health insurance system. Migrants, however, do have access to generalized medical care. Hospitals provided medical emergency assistance, including regarding birth and accidents, to all.

On July 28, an Arnhem court ruled that the in vitro fertilization (IVF) tax benefit should also be available to same-sex couples and called upon politicians to adjust the law, which only allows the benefit on the grounds of a medical issue. The case involved the tax authority’s denial of a request from a same-sex male couple – both of whom were found fertile – for the IVF tax benefit for their surrogate’s treatment outside the country. The court stated that the law was discriminatory as same-sex male couples required additional services, such as surrogacy and IVF, for biological reproduction.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, and emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Under the law women throughout the kingdom have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The governments enforced the law effectively, although there were some reports of discrimination in employment (see section 7.d., Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation).

New Zealand

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of women and men, including spousal rape. The government enforces this law. The maximum penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment; however, preventive detention may occur in cases where the parole board, during its annual review, believes the prisoner poses a continuing threat to society.

Reported rates of violence against women remained at high levels, according to domestic and international observers. Ministry of Justice data for 2020-21 showed convictions for sexual offenses increased slightly from 2019-20. According to the ministry’s most recent annual Crime and Victims Survey (October 2019-September 2020) approximately 2 percent of adults had experienced sexual violence in the previous 12 months; this figure did not change significantly from previous years. The report, however, described “worryingly low levels” of reporting of sexual violence, noting that “94 percent of sexual assaults were not reported to Police.” Women were more than two times more likely than men to have experienced intimate partner violence and three times more likely to have experienced sexual violence.

Domestic violence is a criminal offense. Police were responsive to reports of domestic violence. The law provides victims with 10 days of paid domestic violence leave. The government partially funded women’s shelters, psychosocial services, rape crisis centers, sexual abuse counseling, family-violence victim support networks, and violence prevention services. Victim’s programs include: a crisis response plan for the 72 hours after a sexual assault; programs to reduce harmful sexual behavior, offending, and reoffending; programs focusing on adults who pose a risk to children; and services for male survivors of sexual abuse.

The law defines family violence to reflect how controlling behavior can be used over time to frighten victims and undermine their autonomy. It also names 10 government agencies and a range of social service practitioners as family violence agencies; provides principles to guide decision making and timely responses across agencies; and allows information sharing between agencies to increase victims’ safety.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, requires employers to ensure their workplace is free of behaviors that are unwelcome or offensive, and provides for civil proceedings in cases of workplace harassment. The government, through the Human Rights Commission, effectively enforced the law. Sexual contact induced by certain threats also carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The Human Rights Commission published a guide on making a complaint about sexual harassment. The guide includes access to the commission’s free, informal, and confidential service for questions or complaints about sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination. The commission also published fact sheets on sexual harassment and made regular sexual harassment prevention training available to schools, businesses, and government departments.

After media reports in June revealed incidents of alleged sexual harassment in the media industry, information released under the Official Information Act showed there had been numerous incidents of alleged sexual harassment at state broadcasters Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand, as well as at several private broadcasters, in the last year. Two workers and one external contractor were asked to leave Television New Zealand due to sexual misconduct.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

In 2020 the Human Rights Commission expressed concern about informed consent and the legal permissibility of nontherapeutic medical procedures including sterilization. Under the country’s Disability Action Plan 2019-2023, the Ministries of Health and of Social Development examined the legal framework that protects the bodily integrity of children and adults with disabilities for nontherapeutic medical procedures.

The government provides access to health services, including emergency contraception, for survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. The government effectively enforced the law. Although the law prohibits discrimination in employment and requires equal rates of pay for equal or similar work, in August Statistics New Zealand identified a gender pay gap of 9 percent between women and men. Academics and watchdog groups argued that the lack of pay transparency hindered pursuing pay discrimination claims.

North Korea

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The government criminalized rape of women but not rape of men. Rape is punishable by “reform through labor” for up to five years; if the assailant “commits a grave offense,” a term of more than 10 years; and if the rape was “particularly grave,” a life term or the death penalty. No information was available on how effectively the law was enforced. The 2014 UNCOI report found the subjugation of inmates and a general climate of impunity created an environment in which guards and other prisoners in privileged positions raped female inmates. This was reconfirmed in OHCHR reporting on women who attempted to flee the country, were forcibly repatriated, and finally escaped for good. The women testified they had been subjected to widespread, systemic sexual violence while detained after repatriation. The 2018 HRW report You Cry at Night but Dont Know Why cited endemic sexual and gender-based violence and detailed cases of sexual assault or coerced sexual acts by men in official positions of authority between 2011 and 2015.

When cases of rape came to light, the perpetrator often escaped with mere dismissal or no punishment. For example, HRW reported a 2009 case in which a woman arrested for illegally fleeing the country was raped by a police chief. After she told her lawyer, the lawyer refused to mention it during her trial, saying nothing would be done and that the woman could be punished more severely for bringing it up. As noted in the KINU White Paper for 2020, the law prohibits domestic violence, but both KINU and the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women expressed concern that the government took no protective or preventive measures against such violence. Defectors continued to report violence against women was a systematic problem both inside and outside the home. The White Paper, however, noted some recent testimonies that domestic violence was decreasing as the economic power of women increased.

Sexual Harassment: Despite the law defectors reported the populace generally accepted sexual harassment of women due to patriarchal traditions. They reported there was little recourse for women who had been harassed. Defectors also reported lack of enforcement and impunity enjoyed by government officials made sexual harassment so common as to be accepted as part of ordinary life. According to the 2020 KINU White Paper, authorities repeatedly stated there was no sexual harassment problem in the workplace, suggesting willful ignorance on the part of the government.

Reproductive Rights: NGOs and defectors reported state security officials subjected women to forced abortions for political purposes, to cover up human rights abuses and rape, and to “protect” ethnic purity, and not for population control. Cases of infanticide were also reported.

Vulnerable populations were not always able to provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health. The KINU White Paper for 2020 described testimony of forced sterilization of persons with nanocormia, a form of dwarfism.

KINU’s report for 2020 described the testimony of a substantial number of female North Korean defectors who, following forcible repatriation from abroad, were subjected to “uterus examinations” in detention centers and holding centers, specifically, “examination … conducted during the body search process to find money, secret letters or secret documents.”

According to one 2020 NGO report on menstrual health, menstruation carries social stigma. Sanitary pads were available but remained costly to many, and most women used home-made reusable cloth pads. Lack of adequate menstrual hygiene limited women’s social inclusion and ability to travel and work.

There was no information on what sexual and reproductive health services (including emergency contraception), if any, the government provided to survivors of sexual violence.

Discrimination: The constitution states, “women hold equal social status and rights with men”; however, few women reached high levels of the party or the government, and defectors reported that gender equality was nonexistent. KINU reported discrimination against women emerged in the form of differentiated pay scales, promotions, and types of work assigned to women, in addition to responsibility for the double burden of labor and housework, especially considering the time and effort required to secure food.

North Macedonia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women, including spousal rape, is illegal. Penalties for rape range from one to 15 years’ imprisonment, but those laws were poorly enforced. Domestic violence is illegal but was a persistent and common problem. Penalties range from six months to five years imprisonment for lower-level offenses and one to 10 years imprisonment for crimes resulting in grave or permanent bodily injury. Offenders could receive up to life imprisonment if their actions resulted in the death of their victim. Additionally, courts may impose fines. The law is enforced in cases where victims press charges, but many do not.

In January parliament adopted a Law on Prevention of and Protection from Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. The law was designed to help prevent and protect against gender-based and domestic violence and guard victims’ fundamental human rights and freedoms.

From January to June, the Ministry of Labor registered ‎789 victims of domestic violence, of which 530 were women.

CSOs reported that as of May, the courts had reviewed 171 motions from victims of violence against women or domestic violence who requested protection orders; the courts granted 123. Skopje, Ohrid, and Tetovo courts reported that most of the motions requested orders for protection from physical violence. Gostivar and Kavadarci courts each reported one case of femicide. The Ohrid Basic Court sentenced one defendant to a two-year prison sentence for a femicide.

The government operated eight regional centers for victims of domestic violence that accommodated 34 victims during the year, of which 19 were women and 15 were children. In cooperation with the civil society sector, the government funds one center for victims of domestic violence and one crisis center, which cares for victims for 24 to 48 hours after an assault. A national NGO operated a hotline in both the Macedonian and Albanian languages and ran two crisis centers to provide temporary shelter for victims of domestic violence. According to the CSO National Network to End Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, government measures in March 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic deepened existing gender differences and pushed the burden of the crisis primarily onto women. Many of the measures remained in force during the year. Violence against women increased during the COVID-19 state of emergency, and access to support services decreased as a result of government-issued quarantine measures. CSOs opened hotlines in March 2020 to take calls from victims who were otherwise unable to access resources and reported receiving calls every day.

The Ministry of Labor’s National Free Mobile SOS Line for Victims of Domestic Violence continued to operate throughout the year. The SOS Line and the campaign provided round-the-clock, accurate, timely, and confidential assistance, including information on victim protection, available services, and telephone counseling to victims of gender-based and domestic violence.

The ombudsman characterized the courts’ sentences against convicted offenders as “overly lenient” and said they did not contribute to a reduction and elimination of severe forms of domestic violence nor provide sufficient protection to victims.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace of both men and women and provides a sentencing guideline of three months to three years in prison for violations. When victims pursued legal remedies, the government effectively enforced the law. Nonetheless, sexual harassment of women in the workplace remained a problem, and victims generally did not bring cases forward due to fear of publicity and possible loss of employment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Women from rural areas had limited access to family planning counseling and gynecological services. Romani women faced barriers to accessing family planning counseling and gynecological services due to discrimination, high poverty levels, and the low numbers of family doctors and gynecologists in their communities.

In April with assistance from the Ministry of Health, a local medical specialist opened a primary care, out-patient gynecological practice in Shuto Orizari, providing easier access to medical care and family planning services to some 20,000 predominantly Romani women.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape. There were three centers for survivors of sexual violence in Skopje, Kumanovo, and Tetovo; during the year the centers were integrated with and funded by the state hospitals in each city. A shelter in Skopje for trafficking victims also provided reproductive health care.

Discrimination: Women have the same legal status as men under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, nationality, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The laws were effectively enforced. In some communities the practice of men directing the voting or voting on behalf of female family members disenfranchised women.

No complaints were pending before the ombudsman or the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy for unequal treatment of women in political life as of August 31.

Norway

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and the government generally enforced the law. The penalty for rape is up to 21 years in prison, depending on the severity of the assault, the age of the victim, and the circumstances in which the crime occurred. Most cases resulted in sentences of three years and four months in prison.

The law provides penalties of up to six years in prison for domestic violence and up to 21 years for aggravated rape. Gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence, was a problem. In 2020 the government reported that during the previous three years, partner killings accounted for one in four killings in the country. The government generally enforced the law, although Amnesty International Norway criticized police for not allocating sufficient resources to investigations and asserted that the indictment and conviction rates for rapes were too low.

The government had programs to prevent rape and domestic violence, and offices within the police districts offered counseling and support to victims. All police districts had a domestic violence coordinator. The government continued to implement its three-year Action Plan against Rape that focuses on prevention, improvements of care and services to victims, and improvements to the judicial system. The National Police Directorate oversees the implementation of the national action plan and submits annual reports on the trends in the prosecution of rapes and sexual violence. In August the government launched a four-year action plan against domestic violence, Freedom from Violence. The plan is an interministerial product which includes measures such as prevention, victim assistance, protection and prosecution, and international cooperation. The plan also contains a separate chapter on preventing and combating domestic violence in the Sami community.

Public and private organizations operated 47 government-funded shelters and managed five 24-hour crisis hotlines. Victims of domestic violence have a right to consult a lawyer free of charge before deciding whether to make a formal complaint. If the government initiates criminal proceedings, the victim is entitled to free assistance from a victim’s advocate. Victims may also qualify for a one-time payment from a government-sponsored fund.

Sexual Harassment: The law provides that “employees shall not be subjected to harassment or other unseemly behavior,” and the government effectively enforced this provision. The law applies to employers with as few as 20 employees and requires most companies to include in their annual reports information on their work environment and gender equality. Employers who violate the law are subject to fines or prison sentences of up to two years, depending on the seriousness of the offense. The Antidiscrimination Tribunal has the authority to impose penalties in sexual harassment cases more in line with other cases of discrimination and harassment and puts an onus on public authorities to work actively for gender equality and the prevention of harassment, sexual harassment, and gender-based violence. The costs and resources needed to bring such cases to court have been barriers to victims seeking redress in all but the most egregious cases.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors.

Discrimination: Under the law public and private authorities must advance gender equality in all areas of society. The law mandates that 40 percent of the members of boards of directors of publicly listed companies be women; this applies to employers with as few as 20 employees. Companies largely complied with the law.

Although women have the same legal status as men, they experienced discrimination in terms of gaining employment as well as discrimination in the workplace itself (see section 7.d.). As of September the LDO received 61 complaints of gender discrimination as well as 13 complaints related to parental leave.

Oman

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape with penalties of up to 15 years in prison. The law does not criminalize spousal rape explicitly, but it does criminalize all “sex without consent.” According to diplomatic observers, police investigations resulted in few rape convictions. Foreign nationals working as domestic employees occasionally reported that their sponsors had sexually assaulted them.

The law does not specifically address domestic violence, and judicial protection orders prohibiting 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. The government operated a hotline for reporting incidents of domestic violence and a shelter for victims.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits health practitioners from conducting “traditional practices,” including FGM/C, that are harmful to a child’s health. The 2019 Executive Regulations for the Child Law include “disfiguring female genital organs” as one of these harmful practices. There are no national statistics on the prevalence of FGM/C, although anecdotal reports indicated some ongoing practice of FGM/C.

Sexual Harassment: Harassing a woman by word or conduct is punishable by imprisonment up to a year.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. Married couples have access to family planning and information, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Health clinics 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 medically prescribed contraceptives were generally not available for unmarried women. Menstrual healthcare was available for citizens and menstrual care products were readily available in pharmacies and grocery stores. The government provided free childbirth services to citizens within the framework of universal health care. Prenatal and postnatal care was readily available and used. While survivors of sexual violence could seek medical treatment at public healthcare facilities, the government did not provide emergency contraception or dedicated sexual and reproductive health services to survivors.

Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based discrimination against citizens, but the government did not appear to enforce the law effectively. 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 law favors male heirs in adjudicating inheritance.

The Ministry of Interior requires both male and female citizens to obtain permission to marry foreigners, except nationals of Gulf Cooperation Council countries, whom citizens may marry without restriction; authorities do not automatically grant permission, which is particularly difficult for women to obtain. Citizen marriage to a foreigner abroad without ministry approval may result in denial of entry for the foreign spouse at the border and preclude children from claiming citizenship and residency rights. It also may result in a bar from government employment.

Despite legal protections for women from forced marriage, deeply embedded tribal practices ultimately compel most citizen women towards or away from a choice of spouse.

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. Women married to noncitizens may not transmit citizenship to their children (who are thereby at risk of statelessness) and cannot sponsor their noncitizen husband’s or children’s presence in the country.

The law provides that any adult, male or female, may become a citizen by applying for citizenship and subsequently residing legally in the country for 20 years or 10 years for a woman if married to a male citizen. Women citizens cannot confer expedited citizenship to their foreign male spouses in the same manner. The approval or rejection of the citizenship application is subject to the Ministry of Interior’s final decision.

Government policy provided women with equal opportunities for education, and this policy effectively eliminated the 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.

The Ministry of Social Development is the umbrella organization for women’s concerns. The ministry provided support for women’s economic development through the Oman Women’s Association and local community development centers.

Pakistan

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a criminal offense, with punishment for conviction that ranges from a minimum of 10 to 25 years in prison and a fine to the death penalty. The penalty for conviction of two or more persons of rape is death or life imprisonment. The law does not explicitly criminalize spousal rape and defines rape as a crime committed by a man against a woman. Although rape was frequent, prosecutions were rare. The law provides for collection of DNA evidence and includes nondisclosure of a rape survivor’s name, the right to legal representation of rape survivors, relaxed reporting requirements for female survivors, and enhanced penalties for rape of survivors with mental or physical disabilities. On January 4, the Lahore High Court declared virginity tests, including the so-called “two-finger test” for examination of sexual assault survivors, “illegal and against the Constitution,” and without forensic value in cases of sexual violence.

The government did not effectively enforce the Women’s Protection Act, which brought the crime of rape under the jurisdiction of criminal rather than Islamic courts. The law prohibits police from arresting or holding a female survivor overnight at a police station without a civil court judge’s consent. The law requires a survivor to complain directly to a sessions court, which tries heinous offenses. After recording the survivor’s statement, the sessions court judge files a complaint, after which police may make arrests. NGOs reported the procedure created barriers for rape survivors who could not travel to or access the courts. NGOs continued to report that rape was a severely underreported crime.

The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act provides legal protections for domestic abuse victims, including judicial protective orders and access to a new network of district-level women’s shelters. Centers provided women a range of services including assistance with the completion of first information reports regarding the crimes committed against them, first aid, medical examinations, post trauma rehabilitation, free legal services, and a shelter home. The Punjab government funds four women’s career centers in Punjab universities, 12 crisis centers that provide legal and psychological services to women, and emergency shelters for women and children. The Punjab government established 16 women’s hostel authorities in 12 districts to assist women in finding safe, affordable, temporary lodging while looking for work. It also established 68 additional day care centers, bringing the total to 137 by year’s end. The provincial government also launched other economic empowerment programs, including the Punjab Small Industry Cooperation Development Bank and the Kisan Ki Beti (Farmer’s Daughter) project, which aim to improve living standards of rural women through skill development.

Lahore used a special court designed to focus exclusively on gender-based violence crimes. The Lahore Gender-Based Violence Court receives the most serious cases in the district, such as aggravated rape, and offers enhanced protections to women and girls.

In the first six months of the year, Lahore reported 76 cases of domestic violence against women, 249 cases of rape of women, 1,609 cases of kidnapping of women, three cases of so-called honor killings of women, and 617 cases of violence against women.

The Pakistan National Judicial Policy Making Committee directed all provincial high courts to establish special gender-based violence courts to provide justice to victims of sexual and gender-based violence on a priority basis and in a gender-sensitive manner. Special courts for gender-based violence operated countrywide.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Domestic Violence Against Women (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2021, on February 15. There were no reliable national, provincial, or local statistics on rape due to underreporting, and no centralized law enforcement data collection system existed.

Prosecutions of reported rapes were rare, although there were reports that prosecution rates increased in response to police capacity-building programs and public campaigns to combat the lack of awareness regarding rape and gender-based violence. NGOs reported police sometimes accepted bribes from perpetrators, abused or threatened victims, and demanded victims drop charges, especially when suspected perpetrators were influential community leaders. Some police demanded bribes from survivors before registering rape charges, and investigations were often superficial. There were reports of traditional jirga or panchayat systems of community justice, typically used to resolve low-level disputes, used for cases of rape in rural areas, which may have resulted in a survivor being forced to marry the attacker, or a family member on the survivor’s side being allowed to rape a family member of the accused/defendant’s side. Women who reported or spoke up against violence against women often faced pushback and harassment, including by police officials, which, according to civil society, discouraged survivors from coming forward.

On March 20, a Lahore antiterrorism court sentenced two men, Abid Malhi and Shafqat Ali, to death for the September 2020 robbery and gang rape of a woman in Lahore. The two men broke into the vehicle of the woman who, with her two children, had stalled on the road outside of Lahore. Both culprits were also given a life imprisonment sentence and fined.

On August 14, a woman was assaulted and groped by more than 100 men at a public park in Lahore, Punjab. A video of the attack circulated on social media. Police arrested 24 men and suspended area police officers.

The use of rape medical testing increased, but medical personnel in many areas did not have sufficient training or equipment, which further complicated prosecutions. Most survivors of rape, particularly in rural areas, did not have access to the full range of treatment services. There were a limited number of women’s treatment centers, funded by the federal government and international donors. These centers had partnerships with local service providers to create networks that delivered a full spectrum of essential services to rape survivors.

No specific federal law prohibits domestic violence, which was widespread. Police may charge acts of domestic violence as crimes pursuant to the penal code’s general provisions against assault and bodily injury. Provincial laws also prohibit acts of domestic violence. Forms of domestic violence reportedly included beating, physical disfigurement, shaving of women’s eyebrows and hair, and – in extreme cases – homicide. While dowries were banned in October 2020, dowry and other family-related disputes sometimes resulted in death or disfigurement by burning or acid.

Women who tried to report abuse often faced serious challenges. Police and judges were sometimes reluctant to act in domestic violence cases, viewing them as family problems. Instead of filing charges, police often responded by encouraging the parties to reconcile. Authorities routinely returned abused women to their abusive family members.

A report by the nonprofit Aurat Foundation found that violence against women increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NGO Sustainable Social Development Organization also cited an increase in domestic violence and abuse against women and children due COVID-19 related lockdowns. To address societal norms that disapprove of victims who report gender-based violence, the Islamabad Capital Territory Police (ICTP) created desks at some police stations, staffed by female officers, to offer women a safe place to report complaints and file charges. The ICTP also established a Gender Protection Unit in May, designed to handle cases related to gender violence, domestic and child abuse, and harassment. Cases can be reported through a designated telephone number.

In August, responding to an increase in cases of violence against women, Punjab police introduced a cellphone application that enabled women to contact police surreptitiously in cases in which calling by voice would invite retaliation from a male suspect. Punjab police also established anti-women-harassment and violence teams in all districts across the province. These teams, which included female officers, attempted to respond to complaints within 15 minutes.

The government continued to operate the Crisis Center for Women in Distress, which referred abused women to NGOs for assistance. Numerous government-funded Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Centers for Women across the country provided legal aid, medical treatment, and psychosocial counseling. These centers served women who were victims of exploitation and violence. Officials later referred victims to dar-ul-amans shelter houses for abused women and children – of which there were several hundred around the country. The dar-ul-amans also provided access to medical treatment. According to NGOs the shelters did not offer other assistance to women, such as legal aid or counseling, and often served as halfway homes for women awaiting trial for adultery, but who in fact were survivors of rape or other abuse.

Government centers lacked sufficient space, staff, and resources. Many overcrowded dar-ul-amans did not meet international standards. Some shelters did not offer access to basic needs such as showers, laundry supplies, or feminine hygiene products. In some cases individuals reportedly abused women at the government-run shelters, and staff severely restricted women’s movements or pressured them to return to their abusers. There were reports of women exploited in prostitution and sex trafficking in shelters. Some shelter staff reportedly discriminated against the shelter residents, based on a belief that if a woman fled her home, it was because she was a woman of ill repute.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No national law addresses the practice of FGM/C. According to human rights groups and media reports, many Dawoodi Bohra Muslims practiced various forms of FGM/C. Some Dawoodi Bohras spoke publicly and signed online petitions against the practice. Some other isolated tribes and communities in rural Sindh and Balochistan also reportedly practiced FGM/C.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Women were victims of various types of societal violence and abuse, including so-called honor killings, forced marriages and conversions, imposed isolation, and used as chattel to settle tribal disputes.

Several laws criminalize so-called honor killings and other acts committed against women in the name of traditional practices. Despite these laws, hundreds of women reportedly were victims of so-called honor killings, and many cases went unreported and unpunished. In many cases officials allowed the man involved in the alleged “crime of honor” to flee. Because these crimes generally occurred within families, many went unreported. Police and NGOs reported increased media coverage enabled law enforcement officers to take some action against these crimes.

On January 21, a man in Gujranwala District, Punjab, killed his wife and four children as a so-called honor killing. On January 30, a man confessed to killing four women of his family in Shahkot area of Sheikhupura District as a so-called honor killing.

In July, Noor Mukadam was sexually assaulted and beheaded by a male acquaintance. Police arrested a suspect, but the suspect’s family used their influence to pressure local police and the family of the victim to settle out of court. After the victim’s family and friends highlighted the case on social media, police arrested and charge all accomplices, who were facing trial.

On July 15, Quratul Ain Baloch was beaten to death by her husband Umar Memon in Hyderabad, Sindh, in front of their four children. Police arrested Memon and the trial was ongoing. The killing led to calls to effectively implement the 2013 Sindh Domestic Violence Act, which remained poorly enforced. Sindh-based activists stated that, despite the act’s passage, protection committees had not been formed, nor were women protection officers recruited.

The law makes maiming or killing using a corrosive substance a crime and imposes stiff penalties against perpetrators. There were reports that the practice of disfigurement – including cutting off a woman’s nose or ears or throwing acid in her face, in connection with domestic disputes or so-called honor crimes – continued and that legal repercussions were rare.

On June 7, a man threw acid on a woman in Lahore allegedly after she refused to marry him. Police registered a case against the accused. On July 31, a man tortured his ex-wife and later chopped off her nose in Rawalpindi’s Gojar Khan area. Police filed a case against the former husband. On August 31, a man threw acid on a woman for refusing his marriage proposal in Gujranwala District, Punjab. Police filed a case against the accused.

Laws provide legal mechanisms to formally register and prove the legitimacy of Hindu and Sikh marriages and allow for the termination of the marriage upon the conversion of one party to a religion other than Hinduism. Some activists claimed the latter provision weakened the government’s ability to protect against forced marriage and conversion. The law criminalizes and punishes the giving of a woman in marriage to settle a civil or criminal dispute; depriving a woman of her rights to inherit movable or immovable property by deceitful or illegal means; coercing or in any manner compelling a woman to enter into marriage; and compelling, arranging, or facilitating the marriage of a woman with the Quran, including forcing her to take an oath on the Quran to remain unmarried or not to claim her share of an inheritance. Although prohibited by law, these practices continued in some areas.

On July 14, the parliament adopted the Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights (Amendment) Bill 2021 to protect women’s property rights against being violated under duress, force, or fraud. The law, which applies only in the Islamabad Capital Territory, provides a mechanism for redress under which any woman deprived of property may file an appeal to the ombudsperson.

The law provides for the financial and administrative autonomy enabling the National Commission on the Status of Women to investigate violations of women’s rights.

Sexual Harassment: Although several laws criminalize sexual harassment in the workplace and public sphere, the problem was reportedly widespread. The law requires all provinces to have provincial-level ombudsmen. All provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan had established ombudsmen. During the year the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passed its provincial law for the prevention of the harassment of women.

In 2018 Meesha Shafi and eight others accused pop singer Ali Zafar of sexual harassment. He denied the accusations and filed suit against the women. In 2020 the accusers were charged with defamation; if convicted, they would face up to three years in prison. At year’s end, Zafar’s sexual harassment trial had not resumed, pending the outcome of the defamation case. Women’s rights activists demanded that defamation be decriminalized, as it was used as a tool to silence survivors of sexual harassment.

On April 13, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment of Women ordered the removal of the political science department chairman at Islamia College University Peshawar after an investigation confirmed allegations of sexual harassment against female students.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provided limited access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Survivors of sexual violence were provided with a clinical exam and treatment; female survivors were offered emergency contraceptives. Other services provided to survivors of sexual violence varied by province. During the year the Lahore High Court declared virginity tests illegal and of no forensic value in cases of sexual violence.

Young girls and women often lacked information and means to access care. Adolescent girls have no access to counseling related to menstrual health. Unmarried individuals may access contraceptive commodities from private pharmacies; however, unmarried persons frequently faced difficulties in seeking reproductive health-care services including access to contraceptives.

Spousal opposition also contributed to the challenges women faced in obtaining contraception or delaying pregnancy. Women, particularly in rural areas, faced difficulty in accessing education on health and reproductive rights due to social constraints, which also complicated data collection.

According to the most recent Pakistan Maternal Mortality Survey, the maternal mortality ratio was 186 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017, a rate attributed to inadequate maternal and newborn care. Women in rural areas had limited access to skilled birth attendants, including essential obstetric and postpartum care. The survey revealed three in 10 births were delivered at home, putting both mother and babies at risk. Moreover, there have been serious delays in contraceptive procurement and limited stocks of most of the contraceptive types across the country. Another report from UNICEF’s Impact of COVID-19 and Reproductive Health, Family Planning and GBV [gender-based violence] in Pakistan showed that in the country, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 14.5 percent increase in child mortality and a 21.3 percent increase in maternal mortality in 2020.

Although fines and punishments exist, laws on child marriage have little impact because they were not well enforced. Almost 21 percent of marriages occurred before the age of 18 and 3 percent before age 15, which resulted in early onset of childbearing in 8 percent of married adolescent girls. The government has not introduced a dedicated program to address the sexual reproductive health services and contraception needs of this age group.

Discrimination: Women faced legal and economic discrimination. The law prohibits discrimination based on sex, but authorities did not enforce it. Women also faced discrimination in employment, family law, property law, and the judicial system. Family law provides protection for women in cases of divorce, including requirements for maintenance, and sets clear guidelines for custody of minor children and their maintenance. Many women were unaware of these legal protections or were unable to obtain legal counsel to enforce them. Divorced women often were left with no means of support, as their families ostracized them. Women are legally free to marry without family consent, but society frequently ostracized women who did so, or they risked becoming victims of so-called honor crimes.

The law entitles female children to one-half the inheritance of male children. Wives inherit one-eighth of their husbands’ estates. Women often received far less than their legal entitlement. In addition, complicated family disputes and the costs and time of lengthy court procedures reportedly discouraged women from pursuing legal challenges to inheritance discrimination. During the year Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed a law for the protection of women’s inheritance rights and appointed a female independent ombudsperson charged with hearing complaints, starting investigations, and making referrals for enforcement of inheritance rights.

Data from the Punjab Women’s Helpline showed the helpline received more than a thousand complaints regarding problems concerning property and inheritance rights from January to May. According to the Secretary Women Development Department Punjab, only seven districts, out of 36 in the province, appointed officials for the protection of women inheritance rights.

Media reported that imams and other marriage registrars illegally meddled with nikah namas, Islamic marriage contracts that often detail divorce rights, to limit rights of women in marriage. In other instances women signing the contracts were not fully informed of their contents.

During the year civil society actors reported that only 7 percent of women had access to financial inclusion services in the country and that women had limited access to credit.

Palau

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of women, including spousal rape, is a crime punishable by a maximum of 25 years’ imprisonment, a substantial fine, or both. Domestic violence is a criminal offense. The law is enforced when police respond to calls of domestic violence; however, many persons are reluctant to call police in these situations due to societal pressure. A nongovernmental organization (NGO), Semesemel Klengeakel Organizations (Strengthening Family) helped families at high risk of domestic violence with counseling sessions and services, working closely with the Ministries of Justice and Health.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by a maximum of one year’s imprisonment, a fine, or both. On September 13, the former president of the Angaur State legislature, Leon Gulibert, was convicted of sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The inheritance of property and of traditional rank, however, is matrilineal. There were no reports of unequal pay for equal work or gender-related job discrimination. The government generally enforced the law effectively.

Panama

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence:The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and stipulates prison terms of five to 10 years. Rapes continued to constitute most sexual crimes investigated by the National Police Directorate of Judicial Investigation. In April the Supreme Court found National Assembly member Arquesio Arias, a Guna Yala native, not guilty in both of his 2020 charges for sexual assault, alleging a “lack of evidence.” Arias was a physician in his indigenous comarca (a legally designated semiautonomous area) and was denounced by several Guna Yala women for sexual misconduct and abuse. Arias returned to his legislative seat on July 1. The law against gender violence stipulates stiff penalties for harassment, gender-based violence, and both physical and emotional abuse. For example, the law states that sentencing for femicide is 25 to 30 years in prison, whereas penalties for other forms of homicide range from 10 to 20 years in prison. The law was not effectively enforced. Officials and civil society organizations agreed that domestic violence continued to be a serious problem.

As of October the Public Ministry reported 13,013 new cases of domestic violence nationwide, including 12 attempted femicides and 16 femicides. The province of Panama Oeste and the Ngabe Bugle comarca led the numbers with four femicides each, followed by the Panama Province with three cases. In August, Panama City’s deputy mayor Judy Meana pressed charges against her partner for domestic violence. The alleged abuser was detained for several hours. The judge released him while requiring that the accused release his passport to the court, appear before the court’s office every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and adhere to a restraining order from Meana. The prosecutor filed an appeal, but the judge upheld the decision.

From January through August, the National Institute for Women’s Affairs continued to operate its hotline to give legal guidance to victims of domestic violence and extended its services to include mental health services for women facing stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hours of operation were reduced from 24/7 to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. due to a shortage of professional staff to support the hotline. If a caller were at risk during the call, the operator would make a connection with the Specialized Unit for Domestic and Gender Violence within the police department. After professional staff returned to in-person work in September, the hotline services were discontinued due to staffing limitations. The institute continued to work under a budget that did not allow for victim services and assistance.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in cases of employer-employee relations in the public and private sectors and in teacher-student relations but not between colleagues. Violators face a maximum three-year prison sentence. The extent of the problem was difficult to determine because convictions for sexual harassment were rare, pre-employment sexual harassment was not actionable, and there was a lack of formal reports (only 16 cases had been reported as of September).

Investigations at the Public Ministry continued in the 2020 case of a National Aeronaval Service (SENAN) female pilot who filed a criminal complaint for sexual harassment against her immediate supervisor. Both the man accused of the harassment and the victim were transferred to other departments and given new duties. For months during the year, many restrooms for women at SENAN remained locked due to the pending case. In these cases, women needed to obtain a key from a specific office to access their restrooms. Restrooms for men continued to be open and unlocked at all times.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The law permits medical professionals to perform abortions only if the fetus, the mother, or both are in danger, or, in some very limited cases, if the pregnancy is the result of rape.

The government provided sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception.

Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, and women enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men, but the law was not enforced. For example, SENAN permitted female pilots to fly only as copilots, while male newcomers with less seniority were allowed to fly as principal pilots without restrictions. The law recognizes joint property in marriages. The law does not mandate equal pay for men and women in equivalent jobs. Some employers continued to request pregnancy tests, although it is an illegal hiring practice. The law puts restrictions on women working in jobs deemed hazardous.

Papua New Guinea

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men or women, including spousal rape, is a crime punishable by a sentence ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment. Gender-based violence, including sexual violence, gang rape, and intimate-partner violence, was a serious and widespread problem. Although the law also criminalizes family violence and imposes maximum penalties of two years’ imprisonment and monetary fines, it was seldom enforced. The law criminalizes intimate-partner violence as well, but it nonetheless persisted throughout the country and was generally committed with impunity.

Most informed observers believed that a substantial majority of women experienced rape or sexual assault during their lives. According to Amnesty International, approximately two-thirds of women had been beaten by their partners. Due to stigma, fear of retribution, and limited trust in authorities, most women did not report rape or domestic violence to authorities. Moreover, most communities viewed intimate-partner violence as a private matter, further discouraging survivors from reporting the crime or pressing charges.

In May the police minister told a special parliamentary inquiry into gender-based violence that although more than 15,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2020, only 250 individuals were prosecuted, and fewer than 100 were convicted, as many victims were reluctant to take their cases through the judicial process and the police force lacked the resources to ensure thorough investigations. The inquiry also determined that COVID-19 had exacerbated gender-based violence.

In July a woman in Lae, Morobe Province, was assaulted with rocks and bricks, sustaining a broken jaw and other injuries. Her domestic partner was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for grievous bodily harm, as she suffered a severe brain injury and scalp lacerations.

Those convicted of rape received prison sentences, but authorities apprehended and prosecuted few rapists. The legal system allows village chiefs to negotiate the payment of compensation to victims in lieu of trials for rapists. Anecdotal evidence suggested that victims and their families pursued tribal remedies, including compensation, in preference to procedures in official courts. Village and district courts often hesitated to escalate domestic matters. Village courts regularly ordered payment of compensation to an abused spouse’s family in cases of domestic abuse rather than issuing an order to detain and potentially charge the alleged offender.

Police committed sexual violence. In August a 46-year-old police constable in Port Moresby was sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for repeatedly raping an eight-year-old girl, the daughter of another policeman, since she was five.

There were family and sexual violence units in 18 of 22 provincial police headquarters across the country to provide victims with protection, assistance through the judicial process, and medical care. Police leadership in some provinces led to improved services for victims of gender-based violence. Nevertheless, comprehensive services for victims of domestic and sexual violence were lacking in most of the country. This lack of services, along with societal and family pressure, often forced women back into violent and abusive homes.

As of September, Port Moresby hosted eight shelters for abused women in the National Capital District and neighboring provinces. Outside the capital small community organizations or individuals with little access to funds and counseling resources maintained some shelters. Media reported that COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns and other health measures hurt operations at shelters across the country, as transportation restrictions, lack of personal protective equipment, and limited financial resources forced multiple shelters to close temporarily.

Violence committed against women by other women frequently stemmed from domestic disputes. In areas where polygyny was customary, authorities charged many women with murdering another of their husband’s wives. Independent observers indicated that approximately 90 percent of women in prison were convicted for attacking or killing their husband or another woman.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride price payments continued. This contributed to the perception by many communities that husbands owned their wives and could treat them as chattel. In addition to being purchased as brides, women sometimes were given as compensation to settle disputes between clans.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not illegal and was a widespread and severe problem. Women frequently experienced harassment in public locations and the workplace (see section 7.d.). In Port Moresby the government and UN Women, the UN office that promotes gender equality, worked together to provide women-only public buses to reduce sexual harassment on public transportation.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Cultural barriers that impeded access to contraception included low educational and literacy levels among women; religious beliefs; risk of gender-based violence; the belief that younger women, women not in a union, or unmarried women who had not given birth to a child should not use contraceptives; lack of training among health-care workers; and community gossip and discrimination. There was limited or no access for vulnerable populations in the rural areas to health-care services. Societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals indirectly prevented them from freely accessing health-care services. The National Department of Health worked to strengthen Family Support Centers that provided counseling and support to survivors of gender-based violence and their families; emergency contraception was provided to those victims who wanted it on a case-by-case basis following counseling services. Access to menstrual health care was constrained culturally in most rural areas and was a financial challenge to girls in urban centers. Families of pregnant secondary school-age girls discouraged them from continuing their education until they gave birth; afterward, to avoid social stigma and discrimination, the new mothers often did not return to school and pursued odd jobs to support their child.

According to the UN Fund for Population, the maternal mortality ratio in 2019 was 171 deaths per 100,000 live births due to factors including minimal access to maternal health services, the lack of health facilities and supplies, unmet needs for family planning and contraception, unsupervised deliveries, and sensitivities surrounding sexual and reproductive health. One-third of married women had an unmet need for family planning, seeking to stop or delay childbearing but not using any method of contraception. Only 32 percent of married women used modern contraceptive methods. The Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender-Based Violence reported to parliament in August on the government’s need to focus resources on family planning.

Discrimination: Although the law provides extensive rights for women dealing with family, marriage, and property disputes, gender discrimination existed at all levels. Women continued to face severe inequalities in all aspects of social, cultural, economic, and political life.

Village courts tended to impose jail terms on women found guilty of adultery while penalizing men lightly or not at all. The law, however, requires district courts to endorse orders for imprisonment before the imposition of the sentence, and judges frequently annulled such village court sentences.

Philippines

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, with penalties ranging from 12 to 40 years’ imprisonment with pardon or parole possible only after 30 years’ imprisonment. Conviction may also result in a lifetime ban from political office. The law applies to both men and women. Penalties for forcible sexual assault range from six to 12 years’ imprisonment. The law criminalizes physical, sexual, and psychological harm or abuse to women (and children) committed by spouses, partners, or parents. Penalties depend on the severity of the crime and may include imprisonment or significant fines.

Difficulty in obtaining rape convictions impeded effective enforcement on rape cases. NGOs noted that in smaller localities perpetrators of abuse sometimes used personal relationships with local authorities to avoid prosecution.

Statistics were unavailable on prosecutions, convictions, and punishments for cases filed by the national police. As of August the PNP’s Women and Children Protection Center recorded 4,424 cases of rape during the year, a slight increase from the number recorded during the same period of 2020, involving female and child victims. Of these, 2,202 were referred to prosecutors, 952 were filed in court, 1,252 remained under investigation, and 74 were referred to another agency. As of July the Bureau of Corrections had 7,958 inmates convicted of rape.

Domestic violence against women remained a serious and widespread problem. According to the national police, reported acts of domestic violence against women decreased from 7,093 in January to July 2020 versus 5,282 for the same period during the year. Local and international organizations observed an alarming rise of cases of abuse against women and children during the community quarantine.

NGOs reported that cultural and social stigma deterred many women from reporting rape or domestic violence. NGOs and media reported that rape and sexual abuse of women in police or protective custody continued. In August a new police officer and a local official were accused of sexually molesting and raping a 19-year-old female quarantine violator who was accosted at a quarantine control point in Mariveles, Bataan Province. The woman was taken to the police officer’s boarding house and reportedly raped.

The PNP and the Social Welfare Department both maintained help desks to assist survivors of violence against women and to encourage reporting. The national police’s Women and Children Protection Center also operated a national hotline for reports of violence against women and children. In addition the social welfare department operated residential centers and community-based programs to assist women and children who were victims of rape, domestic violence, and other abuse. By the end of the second quarter, the department reported it had assisted 41 women and girls who were specifically victims of sexual abuse, of whom 27 were raped. With the assistance of NGOs, the CHR, and the Philippine Commission on Women, law enforcement officers received gender sensitivity training to deal with victims of sexual crimes and domestic violence. The national police maintained a women and children’s unit in approximately 1,784 police stations throughout the country with 1,905 help desks to deal with abuse cases. The PNP assigned 4,882 officers to the desks nationwide, almost 98 percent of them women. The law provides 10 days of paid leave for domestic violence victims.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and violations are punishable by imprisonment from one to six months, a moderate fine, or both. Sexual harassment remained widespread and underreported, including in the workplace, due to victims’ fear of losing their jobs.

Relevant law is intended to prevent and punish acts of sexual harassment in public places, online workplaces, and educational institutions. Despite the president’s support for a law preventing sexual harassment, local organizations observed that on multiple occasions Duterte’s rhetoric promoted violence against women.

In a July 17 Facebook post and official statement, the Center for Women’s Resources group criticized an official at the Department of Interior and Local Government’s Emergency Operations Command for allegedly harassing and mistreating women related to victims of the government’s drug war during a July 16 protest at the department. The center urged the department and other concerned government agencies to act against the official for violating the Safe Spaces Act.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Although the law requires that women in non-life-threatening situations secure spousal consent to obtain reproductive health care, the Supreme Court has ruled that the constitution upholds the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.

Although the law provides for universal access to methods of contraception, sexual education, and maternal care, it also allows health practitioners to deny reproductive health services based on their personal or religious beliefs in nonemergency situations; requires spousal consent for women in non-life-threatening situations to obtain reproductive health care; requires minors in non-life-threatening situations to get parental consent before obtaining reproductive health care; and does not require private health-care facilities to provide access to family-planning methods.

Provision of health-care services is the responsibility of local governments, and disruptions in the supply chain, including procurement, allocation, and distribution of contraceptives, reduced their availability to the poor, although modern forms of contraception were available on the market in most areas.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence and protection for rape victims, including emergency contraception.

According to the 2020 UN Human Development Report, the maternal mortality ratio was 121 per 100,000 live births, and skilled attendants participated in 84 percent of births. The Philippine Commission on Population and Development attributed the increase in maternal deaths to mothers not getting optimal care in hospitals and other birthing facilities during the pandemic. The UN Population Fund reported, based on its 2016 analysis of maternal death review, that poverty, remote locations, and a lack of education exacerbated delays in seeking potentially life-saving maternal medical care; that midwives at times had little formal training; and that medical personnel routinely mistreated and denied proper care to women who sought assistance for complications from unsafe abortions.

The World Bank reported in 2019 that the adolescent birth rate was 55 per 1,000 for women between ages 15 and 19. A June 25 executive order implementing measures to address the rise in adolescent pregnancy noted, “girls already living in dysfunctional homes spend more time with their households as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and are thereby more exposed to abuse.” International media and women’s health NGOs cited limited access to adequate sex education and contraceptives as a driving factor of adolescent births. Experts estimated the pandemic lockdowns will cause more than five million women in the country to lose access to reproductive health care. The University of the Philippines and the UN Population Fund warned of a “baby boom” resulting from this loss of access to health care.

In 2019 the UN Population Fund stated that reaching displaced pregnant women to provide critical health services in conflict and crisis-affected areas, particularly Mindanao, was a challenge.

Discrimination: In law although not always in practice, women have most of the rights and protections accorded to men, and the law seeks to eliminate discrimination against women. The law accords women the same property rights as men. In Muslim and indigenous communities, however, property ownership law or tradition grants men more property rights than women.

No law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender in hiring, although the law prohibits discrimination in employment based on sex. Nonetheless, women continued to face discrimination on the job as well as in hiring.

The law does not provide for divorce. Legal annulments and separation are possible, and courts generally recognized divorces obtained in other countries if one of the parties was a foreigner. These options, however, were costly, complex, and not readily available to the poor. The Office of the Solicitor General is required to oppose requests for annulment under the constitution. Informal separation was common but brought with it potential legal and financial problems. Muslims have the right to divorce under Muslim family law.

Poland

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and punishable by up to 12 years in prison. While domestic violence is illegal and courts may sentence a person convicted of domestic violence to a maximum of five years in prison, most of those found guilty received suspended sentences. The law permits authorities to place restraining orders without prior approval from a court on spouses to protect against abuse.

On September 16, the Council of Europe’s Expert Group on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence published its first evaluation report on the implementation of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (so-called Istanbul Convention). The report praised a November 2020 law that introduced an immediate restraining order that may be issued by police who respond to a domestic dispute. Under the new law, the perpetrator must immediately leave the location where the violence took place. The Women’s Rights Center noted that during the first six months since the law’s entry into force, police used the new mechanism in only a small fraction of documented instances of domestic violence. According to the foundation, this may indicate police were not properly trained in the use of the new mechanism. The Women’s Rights Center reported that police were occasionally reluctant to intervene in domestic violence incidents, sometimes arguing there was no need for police intervention. The law requires every municipality in the country to set up an interagency team of experts to deal with domestic violence.

Centers for survivors of domestic violence operated throughout the country. The centers provided social, medical, psychological, and legal assistance to survivors; training for personnel who worked with survivors; and “corrective education” programs for abusers.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and violations carry penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment. According to the Women’s Rights Center, sexual harassment continued to be a serious and underreported problem.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The law obliges both central and local governments to provide citizens with unrestricted access to methods and means serving “conscious procreation,” implemented by the government as gynecological counseling for women and girls and access to contraception. While there were no legal restrictions on the right to obtain contraceptives, a patient’s ability to obtain them was limited, according to NGOs. The Federation for Women and Family Planning noted the government excluded almost all prescription contraceptives from its list of subsidized medicines, making them less affordable, especially for poor women in rural areas. The law also provides that doctors may refrain from performing health services inconsistent with their conscience. According to a 2020 report by the Central and Eastern European Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, doctors regularly used the conscience clause to refuse to write prescriptions for contraceptives. The report also noted that some pharmacies did not stock or sell contraceptives.

The law does not permit voluntary sterilization. Although women have the right to comprehensive medical services before, during, and after childbirth, home birth, while legal, is not subsidized by the National Health Fund. Women had access to emergency health care, including services for the management of complications arising from abortion. According to the Childbirth with Dignity Foundation, standards for perinatal and postnatal care written into the laws are adequate, but the government failed to enforce them effectively. A 2018 report by the Supreme Audit Office indicated women living in rural areas had limited access to medical services related to childbirth due to an insufficient number of gynecological and obstetric clinics in smaller towns and villages.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for sexual violence survivors, including emergency contraception for survivors of rape. According to women’s rights NGOs, access was limited due to survivors’ fear of social stigma, some legal constraints, and the use of the conscience clause by medical doctors who refused to provide such services. According to a September report by the Council of Europe Expert Group on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the country lacked rape crisis and sexual violence centers offering medical care, high-quality forensic examination, and immediate short- and long-term trauma support delivered by trained professionals.

Discrimination: The constitution provides for the same legal status and rights for men and women and prohibits discrimination against women, although few laws exist to implement the provision. The constitution requires equal pay for equal work, but discrimination against women in employment existed (see section 7.d.).

Portugal

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law makes rape, including spousal rape, illegal, with a penalty of three to 10 years’ imprisonment for violations. The government generally enforced the law when the victim chose to press charges and if the cases were not settled out of court through mediation. The law provides for criminal penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment in cases of domestic violence by a spouse or by a person other than the spouse. The judicial system prosecuted persons accused of committing gender-based violence, including violence towards women.

Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, continued to be a problem. According to preliminary data from NGOs and media reports, in the first six months of the year, there were 14 deaths related to domestic violence.

The law allows third parties to file domestic violence reports. The government encouraged survivors of violence to file complaints with the appropriate authorities and offered the victim protection against the abuser. The government’s Commission for Equality and Women’s Rights operated 39 safe houses and 28 emergency shelters for victims of domestic violence and maintained an around-the-clock telephone service. Safe-house services included food, shelter, health assistance, and legal assistance. The government-sponsored Mission against Domestic Violence conducted an awareness campaign, trained health professionals, proposed legislation to improve legal assistance to survivors, and negotiated protocols with local authorities to assist survivors.

In March the government began a new training program for Public Administration workers on domestic violence to improve coordination among officials in different areas, such as health, law enforcement, and justice. The training courses were scheduled to continue through June 2023.

In June the government announced a new plan to reinforce the prevention and fight against domestic violence. Since then, the government launched social alert mechanisms and support to victims of domestic violence through an awareness campaign #EuSobrevivi (#ISurvived), an advice pamphlet, and information on local assistance contacts. Campaign materials were broadcast in the media and posted in police stations, hospitals, courts, citizens services shops, public transportation, gas stations, among other public locations.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is a crime punishable under the law. The State Secretariat for Citizenship and Equality reported that some immigrant communities practiced FGM/C on young girls, particularly among Bissau-Guinean immigrants. According to the government’s Healthy Practices Project to prevent and combat FGM/C, the country flagged 101 cases of possible FGM/C in 2020, down from 129 in 2019. Since authorities began collecting FGM/C statistics in 2014, there have been only three confirmed cases of FGM/C performed in the country. The remaining cases were performed in the immigrants’ countries of origin.

On October 1, the government allocated 60,000 euros ($69,000) to nine civil society organizations for new projects to prevent and combat FGM/C. The projects focus on encouraging girls and women to act against female genital mutilation.

On January 8, a Sintra court sentenced Rugui Djalo, a 21-year-old Bissau-Guinean citizen residing in the country, to three years in prison for the crime of genital mutilation of her then 18-month-old daughter. Djalo was the first person to be brought to trial in the country for the crime of FGM/C. In July the court of appeals suspended the sentence for a period of four years on the grounds that taking the mother away from the child would punish the daughter a second time and that the censure of the practice of FGM/C and the threat of imprisonment already achieved the objective of deterring the practice. The court concluded that the mother travelled to Guinea-Bissau and requested the procedure but did not actually perform FGM/C herself.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a crime, with penalties ranging from one to eight years in prison. If perpetrated by a superior in the workplace, the penalty is up to two years in prison, or more in cases of “aggravated coercion.”

The Commission on Equality in the Workplace and in Employment, composed of representatives of the government, employers’ organizations, and labor unions, examines but does not adjudicate complaints of sexual harassment. From January to April, the Inspectorate General of Finance received 28 reports of sexual harassment, and the Working Conditions Authority registered seven infractions during the same period.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities (see Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), above, for additional information).

Vulnerable populations had the ability to provide informed consent to medical treatment affecting reproductive health, including for sterilization.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence; emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The constitution and the law provide women full legal equality with men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property, and the government enforced the law.

Qatar

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but does not specifically recognize rape of men. Spousal rape is not illegal. Sexual assault and other gender-based crimes were rarely reported, mostly due to social taboo. The penalty for rape is life imprisonment, regardless of the age or gender of the survivor. If the perpetrator is a nonspousal relative, teacher, guardian, or caregiver of the survivor, the penalty is death. The government enforced the law against rape.

No specific law criminalizes domestic violence, whether against spouses or against any member of a household, including children and domestic workers. According to the NHRC, authorities may prosecute spousal violence as “general” violence under the criminal law.

Extramarital sex is punishable by up to seven years in prison, flogging (for unmarried persons), or the death penalty (for married persons). A woman who gives birth out of wedlock receives a 12-month jail sentence, on average, and may also be subject to corporal punishment (lashings) or, in the case of foreign residents, deportation. Press reports indicated jail sentences and flogging were rare in such cases, however.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal and carries penalties of imprisonment or fines. In some cases sponsors sexually harassed and mistreated foreign domestic workers. The government prosecuted nearly 100 trafficking-related cases, of which 13 involved instances of violence against domestic workers; in three of those cases it issued verdicts under the penal code.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. There were no reports of government interference in the rights of married couples to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. It is illegal to have children out of wedlock, and unmarried female foreign residents may risk jail time and deportation if they do. Due to the legal prohibitions and social stigma surrounding sex outside of marriage, obtaining documentation for children born out of wedlock was typically not possible.

Women were routinely asked for marriage certificates when seeking prenatal care. Unmarried individuals who reported pregnancies risked prosecution for extramarital sexual relations. Emergency contraception, in the form of pills, IUDs, condoms, and contraceptive injections, was available in public and private health centers. Birth control pills and condoms were available at pharmacies without a prescription. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. In rape cases with pregnancy, authorities provided all the required services to the victims.

Discrimination: The constitution asserts equality between citizens in rights and responsibilities, but social and legal discrimination against women persisted. Sharia, as implemented in the country, discriminates against women in judicial proceedings, freedom of movement, marriage, child custody, and inheritance.

In line with local social norms, male relatives generally represented female relatives in court, although women have the legal right to attend court proceedings and represent themselves. Judges have discretion to consider a woman’s testimony one-half that of a man’s.

Under the Nationality Law, female citizens face legal discrimination, since they, unlike men, are not permitted to transmit citizenship to their noncitizen spouses or to children born from marriage to a noncitizen. Female citizens are unable to pass citizenship to their offspring. The law allows children of citizen mothers to gain permanent status in country, even if the father is not a Qatari national. Citizens must obtain government permission to marry foreigners, which is sometimes not granted for female citizens. Male citizens may apply for residency permits and citizenship for their foreign wives, but female citizens may apply only for residency for their foreign husbands and children, not citizenship. A non-Muslim wife does not have the automatic right to inherit from her Muslim husband. She receives an inheritance only if her husband wills her a portion of his estate, and even then, she is eligible to receive only one-third of the total estate. A female heir generally receives one-half the amount of a male heir; for example, a sister would inherit one-half as much as her brother. In cases of divorce, children generally remain with the mother until age 13 for boys and 15 for girls, at which time custody reverts to the father’s family, regardless of the mother’s religion.

To receive maternity care, a woman is required to present a marriage certificate, although hospitals generally assist in the birth of children of unwed mothers regardless. There were cases of hospitals reporting unwed mothers to authorities.

The housing law, which pertains to the government housing system, also discriminates against divorced women and women married to noncitizen men.

A non-Muslim woman is not required to convert to Islam upon marriage to a Muslim, but many do so. The government documents children born to a Muslim father as Muslims, regardless of the religion of the mother.

Single women younger than age 25 require the permission of their male guardian to travel outside the country, although the requirement was rarely enforced. There were sporadic reports via social media that airport authorities prevented women older than 25 from traveling abroad without the approval of the male guardian, although the law allows women older than 25 to travel without a guardian’s permission. Male relatives may prevent married or single adult female family members from leaving the country by seeking and securing a court order.

Adult women were customarily not allowed to leave home without a guardian’s approval. This included a need to obtain their male guardian’s permission to work outside the home, although the requirement was rarely enforced.

There was no specialized government office devoted to women’s equality.

Romania

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, of both women and men, is illegal. The law provides for five to 10 years’ imprisonment for rape and two to seven years’ imprisonment for sexual assault. If there are no aggravating circumstances and the attack did not lead to death, police and prosecutors may not pursue a case on their own, but they require a survivor’s complaint, even if there is independent physical evidence. In some cases the government did not enforce the law on rape and domestic violence.

Several human rights activists reported that some police officers tried to dissuade survivors of rape or domestic violence from pressing charges against their aggressors and, in some cases, refused to register criminal complaints submitted by victims. In some instances, police delayed action against sexual abusers. According to media reports, after being notified regarding cases of domestic violence, some members of police ignored the problem or tried to mediate between the victims and their aggressors.

The law classifies family violence as a separate offense and stipulates that when murder, battery, or other serious violence is committed against a family member, the penalty is increased. The law also states that, if the parties reconcile, criminal liability is removed. The law on equal opportunities for men and women includes cyberviolence among the forms of domestic violence and defines it as the occurrence of online harassment, online messages that incite hate based on gender criteria, or the nonconsensual publication of private graphic content that aims to humiliate, scare, threaten, or reduce victims to silence. The FILIA Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development – an NGO that aims to promote gender equality – stated that there were no regulations to implement these amendments.

Gender-based violence, including domestic violence, continued to be a serious problem that the government did not effectively address. The law provides for the issuance of provisional restraining orders by police for a maximum of five days and restraining orders by a court for a maximum of six months upon the survivor’s request or at the request of a prosecutor, the state representative in charge of protecting survivors of family violence, or, if the survivor agrees, a social service provider. Violation of a restraining order is punishable by imprisonment for six months to five years, but the Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development stated that some judges may issue lesser sentences because of overlapping legislation. The court may also order an abuser to undergo psychological counseling. The center stated that police lacked procedures for the implementation and monitoring of restraining orders. A law that entered into force in May established an electronic monitoring system for individuals under a restraining order. The law directs police and the National Administration for Penitentiaries to procure the necessary hardware and make the monitoring system operational by March 2022.

Courts prosecuted very few cases of domestic violence. Many cases were resolved before or during trial when the alleged survivors dropped their charges or reconciled with the alleged abuser.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: According to reports by media and NGOs, bride kidnapping occurred in some communities and was underreported. On August 22, Buzau County police started a criminal investigation for illegal deprivation of liberty against several persons who kidnapped a 14-year-old girl with the intention of forcing her to marry a 19-year-old man. On July 2, the Constanta Court issued a nonfinal ruling sentencing three persons to three and four years’ imprisonment for illegal deprivation of liberty after they attempted to kidnap a 16-year-old girl to force her into marriage. According to media reports, the girl’s family had promised to arrange a marriage between her and one of the kidnappers’ sons, but the girl refused the arrangement.

Sexual Harassment: Criminal law prohibits sexual harassment, which it defines as repeatedly asking for sexual favors in a work or similar relationship. A victim’s complaint is necessary to initiate a criminal investigation. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment of three months to one year. The law on equal opportunities for women and men defines sexual harassment as the occurrence of unwanted behavior with a sexual connotation, which can be expressed physically, verbally, or nonverbally and has the effect or result of damaging a person’s dignity and, in particular the creation of a hostile, intimidating, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment. The government did not enforce the law effectively. According to reports by NGOs, police often mocked victims of sexual harassment or tried to discourage them from pressing charges.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

According to several NGOs and observers, there were infrastructure and information barriers to an individual’s ability to maintain his or her reproductive health, including the lack of community health care and age-appropriate sex education for adolescents. Some women, especially those from poor, rural, or Romani communities, had difficulty accessing reproductive health services due to a lack of information, ethnic discrimination, and poverty. According to the NGO Mothers for Mothers, 25 percent of pregnant women consulted a physician for the first time only after the onset of labor.

Access to government-funded contraception and family planning services was limited because of insufficient funding and training for health professionals. According to the World Health Organization, as of 2020, 71.8 percent of women of reproductive age had their need for family planning satisfied by modern methods of contraception. According to a report released by Save the Children Romania in February, of the 199,720 births in 2019, 17,933 occurred among mothers between the ages of 15 and 19, while 749 occurred among mothers younger than 15. NGOs, health professionals, and social workers identified underreported child sex abuse and limited access to information regarding reproductive health and contraception as the leading factors contributing to high teenage pregnancy rates. Several NGOs reported that the school curriculum lacked sufficient lessons on reproductive health. Parent and religious associations regularly thwarted attempts to introduce such lessons into the curriculum.

Observers reported that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some maternity hospitals were open only for patients infected with COVID-19, making access to reproductive and prenatal care more difficult. Although home birth is not prohibited by law, regulations forbid health professionals from providing home birth services. According to UNICEF, skilled health personnel attended 94.8 percent of deliveries in 2018.

The government provided access to some sexual and reproductive health services to survivors of sexual violence, but some women had difficulties accessing these services. Emergency contraceptives were available in pharmacies without a prescription, but according to the Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development, they were not affordable for all women.

Discrimination: Under the law women and men have equal rights. The government did not enforce the law effectively. Women experienced discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. Segregation by profession existed, with women overrepresented in lower-paying jobs. There were reports of discrimination in employment. Women experienced discrimination in access to pension benefits and retirement (see section 7.d.).

Russia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence:  Rape is illegal, and the law provides the same punishment for a relative, including a spouse, who commits rape as for a nonrelative.  The penalty for conviction of rape is three to six years’ imprisonment for a single offense, with additional time imposed for aggravating factors.  According to NGOs, many law enforcement personnel and prosecutors did not consider spousal or acquaintance rape a priority and did not encourage reporting or prosecuting such cases.  NGOs reported that local police officers sometimes refused to respond to rape or domestic violence calls unless the victim’s life was directly threatened.  Authorities typically did not consider rape or attempted rape to be life threatening.

Domestic violence remained a significant problem.  There is no domestic violence provision in the law and no legal definition of domestic violence, making it difficult to know its actual prevalence in the country.  The law considers beatings by “close relatives” an administrative rather than a criminal offense for first-time offenders, provided the beating does not cause serious harm requiring hospital treatment.  The anti-domestic-violence NGO ANNA Center estimated that 60 to 70 percent of women who experienced some form of domestic violence did not seek help due to fear, public shame, lack of financial independence from their partners, or lack of confidence in law enforcement authorities.  Laws that address bodily harm are general in nature and do not permit police to initiate a criminal investigation unless the victim files a complaint.  The burden of collecting evidence in such cases typically falls on the alleged victims.  The law prohibits threats, assault, battery, and killing, but most acts of domestic violence did not fall within the jurisdiction of the Prosecutor’s Office.  The law does not provide for protection orders, which experts believed could help keep women safe from experiencing recurrent violence by their partners.

Open Media reported in January that the government “drastically cut” funding for domestic violence initiatives in the previous year, from 16.5 million rubles ($223,000) in 2019 to two million rubles ($27,000) in 2020.  During the year the government provided a grant to only one NGO of dozens of domestic violence crisis centers and legal aid organizations that sought government funding.  According to Open Media, the government instead funded projects aimed at preventing divorce or promoting “Orthodox Christian traditions to strengthen families.”

In December 2020 the Ministry of Justice added the prominent women’s rights NGO Nasiliu.net – Russian for No to Violence – to the registry of “foreign agents,” a move media attributed to the organization’s support of a draft bill to recriminalize domestic violence introduced to the State Duma in 2019.  Director Anna Rivina characterized the designation as a political reaction by the government and an effort to silence dissent and criticism of its stance on domestic violence, which experts said was influenced by conservative “traditional values.”

COVID-19-related stay-at-home orders and general restrictions on movement trapped many women experiencing domestic violence in the same space as their abusers.  Many survivors noted they could not leave their homes due to fear of being punished for violating the stay-at-home order.

There were reports that women defending themselves from domestic violence were charged with crimes.  In March authorities recognized three sisters accused of murdering their abusive father in 2018 as victims after the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against the father on charges of sexual assault, coercion into sexual acts, and torture.  Their lawyers expressed hope this “breakthrough” in the case would result in the dismissal of the sisters’ murder charges.

According to the ANNA Center, when domestic violence offenses were charged, articles under the country’s criminal law were usually applied that employed the process of private prosecution.  The process of private prosecution requires the victim to gather all necessary evidence and bear all costs after the injured party or his or her guardian took the initiative to file a complaint with a magistrate judge.  The NGO noted that this process severely disadvantages survivors.  Experts estimated that seven of 10 such cases were dropped due to reconciliation of the parties as a result of the abuser pressuring, manipulating, and intimidating the survivor who often had to continue living in the same house.

According to NGOs, police were often unwilling to register complaints of domestic violence, saying that cases were “family matters,” frequently discouraged survivors from submitting complaints, and often pressed victims to reconcile with abusers.

Most domestic violence cases filed with authorities were either dismissed on technical grounds or transferred to a reconciliation process conducted by a justice of the peace whose focus was on preserving the family rather than punishing the perpetrator.  NGOs estimated that only 3 percent of such cases eventually reached the courts.  Survivors of domestic violence in the North Caucasus experienced difficulty seeking protection from authorities.

NGOs noted government-operated institutions provided services to affected women such as social apartments, hospitals wards, and shelters.  Access to these services was often complicated, since they required proof of residency in that municipality, as well as proof of low-income status.  In many cases these documents were controlled by the abusers and not available to survivors.  A strict two-month stay limit in the shelters and limited business hours of these services further restricted survivors’ access to social services.  After COVID-19-related restrictions forced many shelters to close temporarily, NGOs rented out apartments and hotels to shelter the survivors.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C):  The law does not specifically prohibit FGM/C.  NGOs in Dagestan reported that FGM/C was occasionally practiced in some villages.  On October 23, media outlets reported that the first case of FGM/C to be prosecuted in a Russian court was likely to end without resolution due to procedural delays that extended proceedings beyond the two-year statute of limitations for the offense stipulated by law.  Criminal charges of “causing minor harm to health” were brought against a doctor in Ingushetiya who performed an FGM/C operation on a nine-year-old girl at her father’s request in 2019.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices:  Human rights groups reported that “honor killings” of women persisted in Chechnya, Dagestan, and elsewhere in the North Caucasus, but the cases were rarely reported or acknowledged.  Local police, doctors, and lawyers often collaborated with the families involved to cover up the crimes.  In some parts of the North Caucasus, women continued to face bride kidnapping, polygamy, forced marriage (including early and child marriage), legal discrimination, virginity testing before marriage, and forced adherence to Islamic dress codes.  Women in the North Caucasus often lost custody of their children after the father’s death or a divorce due to traditional law that prohibits women from living in a house without a man.

Sexual Harassment:  The law contains a general provision against compelling a person to perform actions of a sexual character by means of blackmail, threats, or by taking advantage of the victim’s economic or other dependence on the perpetrator.  There is no legal definition of harassment, however, and no comprehensive guidelines on how it should be addressed.  Sexual harassment was reportedly widespread, but courts often rejected victims’ claims due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Reproductive Rights:  There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities during the year, although there had been such reports in previous years.

There were significant social and cultural barriers to family planning and reproductive health in the North Caucasus republics, including cases of FGM/C.

There are no legal restrictions on access to contraceptives, but very few citizens received any kind of sexual education, hampering their use.  Senior government officials and church and conservative groups in the country stridently advocated for increasing the birth rate, and their opposition to family planning initiatives contributed to a social stigma that also affected the use of contraceptives.

Access to family planning and skilled medical attendance at birth varied widely based on geography and was often extremely limited in rural areas.

According to various human rights groups, COVID-19 restrictions negatively affected accessibility for the full range of reproductive health services.

The government did not deny access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, but survivors did not always seek needed treatment due to social stigma.  Emergency contraception was readily available as part of clinical management of rape in urban centers, but not necessarily in rural areas.

Discrimination:  The constitution and law provide that men and women enjoy the same legal status and rights, but women often encountered significant restrictions.  Women experienced discrimination in the workplace, in pay, and in access to credit.  At the start of the year, the government lifted Soviet-era gender-based employment restrictions, enabling women to do approximately 350 types of jobs that had previously been forbidden, such as truck driving.  The Ministry of Labor ruled 100 jobs to be especially physically taxing, including firefighting, mining, and steam boiler repair, which remained off-limits to women.

San Marino

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense, and the government effectively prosecuted persons accused of such crimes. The penalty for rape is two to six years in prison. In aggravated circumstances the sentence is four to 10 years. No figures for cases of rape or domestic violence were available for the year.

The law prohibits domestic violence, and the government effectively enforced it. Domestic violence is a criminal offense; the penalty for spousal abuse is two to six years in prison. In aggravated circumstances the prison term is four to eight years.

Sexual Harassment: The government effectively enforced the law prohibiting sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was available as part of the clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The law regarding domestic violence and domestic abuse also prohibits gender-based discrimination.

Saudi Arabia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a criminal offense under sharia with a wide range of penalties, from flogging to execution. The law does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. The government enforced the law based on its interpretation of sharia, and in some cases courts punished victims as well as perpetrators for illegal “mixing of genders,” even when there was no conviction for rape. Survivors must prove that a rape was committed, and a woman’s testimony in court was not always accepted.

Due to these legal and social obstacles, authorities brought few cases to trial. Statistics on incidents of, and prosecutions, convictions, or punishments for rape were not available. Most rape cases were likely unreported because survivors faced societal and familial reprisal, including diminished marriage opportunities, criminal sanctions up to imprisonment, or accusations of adultery or sexual relations outside of marriage, which are punishable under sharia. There were reports that domestic abuse in the form of incest occurred but was seldom reported to authorities due to fears of societal repercussions, according to local sources.

The law against domestic violence defines domestic abuse broadly and criminalizes domestic abuse with penalties of one month to one year of imprisonment or a fine unless a court provides a harsher sentence.

Researchers stated it was difficult to gauge the magnitude of domestic abuse, which they believed to be widespread. Recent studies varied widely, finding the rate of domestic abuse among women to be anywhere between 15 to 60 percent. In July, referencing a Ministry of Health report, local media reported authorities were investigating more than 2,700 domestic violence cases, in which 75 percent of the alleged survivors were female. The National Family Safety Program, a quasi-governmental organization under the Ministry of National Guard, is charged with spreading awareness of and combatting domestic violence, including child abuse, and continued to report abuse cases.

Officials stated the government did not clearly define domestic violence and procedures concerning cases, including thresholds for investigation or prosecution, and thus enforcement varied from one government body to another. Some women’s rights advocates were critical of investigations of domestic violence, claiming investigators were hesitant to enter a home without permission from the male head of household, who may also be the perpetrator of violence. Activists reported the situation had improved in recent years, with greater awareness of resources for domestic violence survivors, such as the domestic violence hotline managed by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. They also noted a continued increase in authorities’ willingness to inv