Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape was a widespread problem. It is punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison, depending on the circumstances and age of the victim. The Court of Appeals tried several criminal rape cases during the year. On November 18, in Niamey the Court of Assizes opened its session and had 13 cases of rape on its calendar. The Court of Assizes in Zinder opened its session on November 24 and had nine cases of rape on its calendar. Most rape cases went unreported, however, due to the victims’ fear or shame. The law does not explicitly recognize spousal rape, and authorities seldom prosecuted it. Survivors often sought to resolve the problem within the family or were pressured to do so, and many victims did not report spousal rape due to fear of retribution or loss of economic support.
Domestic violence against women was widespread, although reliable statistics were not available regarding numbers of incidents, prosecutions, or convictions. Husbands commonly beat their wives.
While the law does not explicitly prohibit domestic violence, a woman can sue her husband or lodge criminal charges for battery, penalties for which range from two months in prison and a fine of 10,000 CFA francs ($19) to 30 years’ imprisonment. The government tried with limited success to enforce these laws, and courts prosecuted cases of domestic violence when they received complaints. Charges stemming from family disputes were often dropped in favor of traditional dispute resolution mechanisms. While women have the right to seek redress for violence in the customary or formal courts, few did so due to ignorance of redress offered by the legal system and fear of spousal or familial repudiation, further violence, or stigmatization. Through several events, such as International Women’s Day (March 8) and National Women’s Day (May 13), that received wide media coverage, the Ministry of Population, Women’s Promotion, and Children’s Protection, international organizations, NGOs, and women’s organizations conducted public awareness campaigns on violence against women and the legal recourse available to them.
According to the prime minister, surveys in 2010 on gender-based violence showed that at some point in their lives 43.2 percent of women nationwide had experienced physical violence, and 28.3 percent had been sexually abused.
On National Women’s Day, the government renewed its commitment to combating violence against women by empowering them. The minister of population, women’s promotion, and children’s protection listed the actions initiated by her ministry, including the development of a national women’s leadership program, a national strategy to fight gender-based violence, and capacity-building efforts. The ministry’s strategic plan for 2012-15 includes infrastructure building, provision of tools and equipment for women, and the insertion of gender in the local development plans of 39 communes and in the training curricula of various vocational schools. One hundred and seventy female local council members were trained in the national gender policy and women’s rights, and 200 women were trained in women’s entrepreneurship.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, which is punishable by six months to three years in prison. If an FGM/C victim dies, the practitioner can be sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. There were no reports of FGM/C on women age 18 and over (see section 6, Children).
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: There continued to be a serious stigma associated with being the descendant of a slave. The practice continued of taking a “fifth wife,” or “wahaya,” in which girls/women are sold into physical or sexual slavery.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a crime punishable by prison sentences of from three to six months and fines of 10,000 to 100,000 CFA francs ($19 to $190). If the violator is in a position of authority over the victim, the prison sentence is three months to one year and the fine is increased to 20,000 to 200,000 CFA francs ($38 to $380). Sexual harassment was common. Courts enforced applicable laws in the small percentage of cases reported.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Individuals further have the right to attain the highest standard of reproductive health; however, information regarding reproductive rights was not readily available. There were no restrictions on the right of access to contraception, skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth, and emergency health care. Health clinics and local health NGOs were permitted to disseminate information on family planning freely under the guidance of the Ministry of Public Health. According to the country’s Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) in 2012, only 6 percent of girls and women ages 15-19 and 12 percent of those ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception nationwide.
The government provides free health care for children up to five years of age, leading to increased access to health centers for women’s general and essential obstetric and postpartum care, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Due to a shortage of skilled health professionals and limited resources, many women used traditional midwives during childbirth and were referred to hospitals only when the mother or child suffered health complications. According to the 2012 DHS, 30 percent of births took place in health centers, and skilled personnel attended 29 percent of births. The maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) was 630 in 2013, and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in 20. Major factors influencing maternal mortality included lack of prenatal care, high rates of adolescent pregnancy, diseases during pregnancy, infections after birth, malnutrition, and lack of access to emergency obstetric care.
Discrimination: Although the constitution provides for equal rights regardless of gender, women do not have the same rights as men under family law, which customary courts usually adjudicate. In customary law legal rights as head of household typically apply only to men. Customary law does not consider a divorced or widowed woman, even with children, to be a head of household. Traditional and religious beliefs resulted in discrimination in education, employment (see section 7.d.), owning or managing a business, credit, and property rights. Discrimination was worse in rural areas, where women helped with subsistence farming and did most of the childrearing, cooking, water- and wood-gathering, and other work. In the absence of a formal will stating otherwise, a woman’s share is half the size of a man’s share of a deceased parent’s property. In the east there were reports some husbands cloistered their wives and prevented them from leaving their homes unless escorted by a male relative, usually even then only after dark.
The Ministry of Population, Women’s Promotion, and Children’s Protection and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security implement the government policies against discrimination (see section 7.d.).
The government had programs to provide women microcredit, access to clean water, and access to health services.