Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and provides penalties from 10 to 18 years in prison for rape. The length of the sentence depends on the victim’s age and other factors, such as the assailant’s use of violence or position of influence over the victim. Rape was underreported due to fear of retribution, further violence, and social stigma. According to the National Institute of Women (INAMU), the rape law applies to spousal rape, although in practice spousal rape cases were much more difficult to prove. The challenge of collecting physical evidence in cases of rape further limited investigation and prosecution. Only one location in the country, the Judicial Forensic Clinic, had rape kits to collect and analyze physical evidence for use in prosecutions. According to the judicial branch’s Statistics Office, there were 1,755 reported rape cases in 2011; ultimately, courts tried 307 cases of rape, 17 cases of attempted rape, and 65 cases of aggravated rape in 2011, and convicted and sentenced 157, 10, and 37 defendants, respectively.
The government continued to identify domestic violence against women and children as a serious and growing societal problem. From January to March 31, the uniformed police received 19,975 reports of domestic violence, reflecting an increase of 35 percent over the same period in 2011. INAMU reported that 18 women died from domestic violence during the year; in 2011 40 women and girls died from domestic violence. The Paniamor Foundation, an NGO working on gender-based violence issues, linked the problem to general social marginalization and access to firearms, powered by illicit drug trafficking, which disproportionally affects women and children. The law prohibits domestic violence and provides measures for the protection of domestic violence victims. Criminal penalties range from 10 to 100 days in prison for aggravated threats and up to 35 years in prison for aggravated homicide, including a sentence of 20 to 35 years for persons who kill their partners. If a domestic violence offender has no violent criminal record and the sentence received is less than three years’ imprisonment, the law also provides for alternative sanctions, such as weekend detentions and assistance, including referrals for social services and rehabilitation. In 2011, according to the Statistics Office, authorities opened 17,607 cases of domestic violence throughout the country. Although there were only 484 cases tried with 226 persons sentenced for crimes of violence against women, this represented an increase of 91 cases from those tried in 2010.
INAMU assists women and their children who are victims of domestic violence in its regional office located in San Jose and in three other specialized centers and temporary shelters. INAMU maintained a domestic abuse hotline connected to the 911 emergency system and provided counseling to 7,298 women and provided protection to 321 women and 616 children during the year.
The public prosecutor, police, and ombudsman have offices dedicated to addressing domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and educational institutions, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security generally enforced this prohibition. The law imposes penalties ranging from a letter of reprimand to dismissal, with more serious incidents subject to criminal prosecution. The Ombudsman’s Office received 136 complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace between January and August.
Reproductive Rights: Individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of children, have information and access to safe methods of contraception from public hospitals and medical attention centers, and receive medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. According to the UN Population Fund, skilled health personnel attended 95 percent of births in 2010. The maternal mortality rate was 40 per 100,000 live births as of 2010.
The public health-care system plays a major role in how women access contraception, including sterilization. In public as well as private health care, the right to obtain and use contraceptives extends to all members of the population. Patients who pay into the public health-care system receive contraceptives at no additional fee, and 80 percent of women ages 15 to 49 used a modern method of contraception, according to 2011 UN estimates.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal status and rights as men under the law in most cases. The law prohibits discrimination against women and obligates the government to promote political, economic, social, and cultural equality. The government maintained offices for gender problems in most ministries and parastatal organizations. The Labor Ministry is responsible for investigating allegations of gender discrimination. INAMU implemented programs that promoted gender equality and publicized the rights of women. In 2011 the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) reported that women represented 45.7 percent of the labor force. The law requires that women and men receive equal pay for equal work. In 2011 INEC estimated that earnings for women were 94.5 percent of earned income for men. While there is no waiting period for men to remarry, the law requires women to wait 300 days following divorce, or the death of a husband, unless they present a medical certificate stating they are not pregnant.