Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is a crime punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment, although the law does not address spousal rape. Police generally investigated reports of rape, but victims often did not file reports due to cultural barriers and fear of reprisal. According to human rights NGOs, rape occurred frequently. Although rape cases were prosecuted during the year, no statistics were available on the number of cases reported or prosecuted. Several organizations, including Roman Catholic and Protestant missions, the Association of Women Jurists in Burkina Faso, the Association of Women, and Promofemmes (a regional network that worked to combat violence against women), counseled rape victims.
Domestic violence against women occurred frequently, primarily in rural areas. According to the Inter Parliamentary Union, 33.9 percent of women were victims of physical domestic violence, committed in 68 percent of cases by their husbands. No law specifically protects women from domestic violence, and cases of wife beating usually were handled out of court unless the victims were severely injured.
Victims 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. There were no government-run shelters in the country for victims of domestic violence, but there were counseling centers in each of the 13 regional “Maison de la Femme” centers. The Ministry of Women’s Protection sometimes provided counseling and housing for abused women.
The Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity, which has a legal affairs section to educate women on their rights, and several NGOs cooperated to protect women’s rights. The ministry organized a number of workshops and several sensitization campaigns to inform women of their rights.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C. There were no reports of women age 18 and over undergoing FGM/C during the year (see section 6, Children).
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: On occasion elderly women without support, living primarily in rural areas and often widowed, were accused of witchcraft by their neighbors and banned from their villages. Such women were accused of “eating” the soul of a relative or a child who had died. Victims seldom took legal action due to fear of repercussions to their families and sought refuge at centers run by governmental or charitable organizations in urban centers. During the year the Delwende Center in Ouagadougou, operated by the Roman Catholic Church, supported 260 women accused of witchcraft. A similar government-run center in Ouagadougou’s Paspanga area housed 84 women.
The abuse of suspected witches sometimes resulted in death. On May 6, two women were accused of eating the souls of 12 children in Kuinima, a neighborhood of Bobo-Dioulasso. They were violently assaulted by a mob, but the customary chief of the neighborhood transferred the women to police to prevent the mob from killing them. Although the police kept them a short time for their safety, they were released afterwards, and the neighborhood’s customary leaders were in charge of handling the case.
The former government and traditional authorities worked together to stop violence against individuals accused of witchcraft. The Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity continued implementation of the 2012-16 action plan to fight the social exclusion of women accused of witchcraft. In collaboration with NGOs, such as the Peace and Justice Commission and Women’s Rights for Development, the plan provides for financial, legal, and psychological support for accused persons. The ministry initiated specific awareness programs in ethnic Mossi villages and assisted with mediation efforts between the accused and village elders. In May the Ministry of Human Rights and Civic Promotion held a series of conferences and debates in Bousse, Kombissiri, and Yako to raise awareness of the social exclusion of women accused of witchcraft.
Sexual Harassment: The labor code explicitly prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, which is punishable by fines of 50,000 to 600,000 CFA francs ($95 to $1,140) and prison terms varying from one month to five years. The government was ineffective in enforcing the law, in large part because sexual harassment was considered culturally acceptable by many. There were no statistics available on the number of cases reported, prosecutions, or convictions.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals are legally entitled to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. They have the right attain the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. 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. Remote villages, however, often lacked these facilities or did not have adequate transportation infrastructure to permit easy access.
According to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey, 95 percent of women received prenatal care from skilled personnel, 67 percent of births were attended by skilled personnel, and 14 percent of women who wanted to space their pregnancies had access to modern birth control methods. The Regional Directorate of Health reported that the national average of contraceptive use was 17 percent in 2012. Cultural norms that left decisions regarding birth control to husbands contributed to the limited use of contraceptives. The relatively high maternal mortality ratio of 341 per 100,000 live births was attributed to the lack of access to health care in rural areas. Amnesty International reported maternal deaths also resulted from inadequate training of health workers.
Post-abortion care services and emergency health care were provided to women if needed. Rural women were more likely to suffer complications from an unsafe abortion than were urban women. According to a study by the Burkinabe Superior Institute of Sciences of Population, 46 percent of poor rural women who had an abortion experienced complications, and 41 percent of these complications went untreated. Conversely, 23 percent of nonpoor urban women who had an abortion experienced complications and more than 90 percent of these women received the medical care they needed.
Discrimination: Women continued to occupy a subordinate position in society and often experienced discrimination in education, jobs, property ownership, access to credit, management or ownership of a business, and family rights. According to local labor laws, all workers--men and women alike--must receive equal pay for equal working conditions, qualifications, and performance. Nevertheless, women generally received lower pay for equal work, had less education, and owned less property. Polygyny is permitted, but a woman must agree to it prior to marriage. A wife may oppose further marriages by her husband if she provides evidence he abandoned her and their children. Each spouse may petition for divorce, and the law provides that custody of a child may be granted to either parent, based on the child’s best interest. Mothers generally retained custody until their children reached the age of seven, at which time custody reverted to the father or his family.
Women represented approximately 45 percent of the labor force in the formal sector and were primarily concentrated in low-paid, subservient positions. 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 women were often denied the right to own property, particularly real estate. This condition was exacerbated by the fact that 75 percent of marriages were defined as common-law unions (with only a religious or traditional ceremony) and not legally binding. For example, in rural areas land owned by a woman becomes the property of the family of her husband after marriage. 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 continued media campaigns to change attitudes toward women. The Ministry of Women’s Promotion is responsible for increasing women’s awareness of their rights and was working to facilitate their access to land ownership. The government sponsored a number of community outreach efforts and awareness campaigns to promote women’s rights.