Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but not spousal rape. Although the maximum sentence for sexual molestation (rape or incest) is 25 years’ imprisonment, the normal sentence was five to seven years, except in the case of murder. Police generally were not reluctant to arrest or prosecute offenders; whenever possible, female police officers handled rape cases. The Bureau of Gender Affairs and a civil society organization, the DNCW, assisted victims of abuse by finding temporary shelter, providing counseling to both parties, or recommending police action.
Sexual violence and domestic violence cases were common and the government recognized it as a problem. No information was available regarding prosecutions or convictions. The government held workshops and participated in public awareness and outreach programs. Survivors of sexual and domestic violence were sometimes reluctant to speak out due to fear of retribution, stigma, or further violence, which suggested that the problem might have been significantly underreported. Although no specific laws criminalize spousal abuse, spouses were able to bring charges against their partners for battery. Strong emotional ties to abusers and a lack of financial independence often made survivors reluctant to press domestic violence charges.
The DNCW organized emergency temporary shelters in private homes to preserve the privacy of the victims because the location of shelters was hard to keep secret. The law allows abused persons to appear before a magistrate without an attorney and request a protective order. Although the country lacks a family court, magistrates may order the alleged perpetrator to be removed from the home to allow the victims, usually women and children, to remain in the home while the matter is investigated. Inadequate police resources made enforcement of these restraining orders difficult. The Bureau of Gender Affairs continued to provide occasional training to police officers in dealing with domestic abuse cases.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs reported that male and female survivors sought assistance in dealing with domestic violence. In addition to counseling services offered by the DNCW and the bureau, there was a legal aid clinic, and the government’s legal department also offered assistance. Despite the range of programs offered, support systems were insufficient to address the problem effectively.
The DNCW provided preventive education about domestic violence and maintained a shelter where counseling and mediation services were available daily. Funding constraints limited stays at the shelter to several days at a time; however, if needed, additional housing was provided in private homes for up to three weeks. The Catholic Church continued to be active in educating the public about domestic violence.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No law prohibits FGM/C, and the practice was virtually nonexistent in the country.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and it continued to be a serious and persistent problem.
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; to obtain the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standards of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. While statistics on maternal mortality were not available, in 2013 the UN Population Fund reported that skilled health personnel attended 100 percent of births. Access to modern contraception and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases were widely available.
Discrimination: Women enjoy the same legal rights as men, but property ownership continued to be deeded to heads of households, who were usually men. The inheritance law provides that intestate succession leaves the surviving spouse with only a life estate. In recent years, however, the title registration act was amended to accommodate transfer of property between spouses, which boosted married women’s property ownership. Women in unrecognized common law partnerships frequently suffered reduced standards of living after such relationships ended. The law establishes pay rates for civil service jobs without regard to gender. Although some women occupied managerial or high-level positions, women still faced discrimination in employment opportunities (see section 7.d.).
The Bureau of Gender Affairs is charged with promoting and ensuring the legal rights of women. The bureau provides lobbying, research, support, counseling, training, and education services. The bureau worked with the DNCW and other organizations to help the government, nongovernmental organizations, and police sectors coordinate work on women’s issues, particularly in data collection and information sharing.