Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and prescribes penalties for rape or forcible sexual assault of between 12 and 15 years’ imprisonment and fines up to SRD 100,000 ($30,000). The government enforced the law effectively. Police received 434 reports of sexual abuse as of September.
Violence against women remained a serious and pervasive problem. The law imposes sentences of four to eight years’ imprisonment for domestic violence. Through September police received 1,286 reports of domestic abuse, an increase from 1,035 through November 2013. Nine of the 29 killings committed as of September were related to domestic abuse, and as of December, prosecutions remained pending.
The Ministry of Justice and Police’s Victim Assistance Bureau provided resources for victims of domestic violence and continued to provide information on domestic violence through public television programs. There were four victims’ rooms in police stations in Paramaribo and Nickerie. Authorities trained police units in dealing with survivors and perpetrators of sexual crimes and domestic violence. Through September the government’s Victim Services Department provided shelter services to 18 women and 33 children. The length of stay depended upon the circumstances but averaged three months.
Authorities reported an average of 20 requests per week for restraining orders, primarily from women seeking protection from their abusive partners. If such requests are granted, partners are instructed not to have telephone contact with victims and not to go near the victims.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): While no law prohibits FGM/C, the practice was virtually nonexistent in the country.
Sexual Harassment: There is no specific legislation on sexual harassment, but prosecutors cited various penal code articles in filing sexual harassment cases. There were no reported court cases involving sexual harassment in the workplace.
Stalking is a criminal offense, and police may investigate possible cases of stalking without a formal complaint being filed. Pending investigation police may issue on behalf of the attorney general temporary restraining orders limiting the contact between victim and suspect for up to 30 days. If found guilty, offenders can receive prison sentences between four and 12 years and fines between SRD 50,000 ($15,000) and SRD 150,000 ($45,000), depending on the severity of the case.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to have the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to information on modern contraception was widely available and, according 2013 data from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 47.6 percent of women ages 15-49 used modern contraceptive methods. Although skilled attendance at birth was approximately 92.7 percent, the UN Population Fund estimated the maternal mortality ratio to be 130 deaths per 100,000 live births. Women had easier access to emergency services in the coastal area than in the interior, where regional clinics were remote and transportation to Paramaribo for medical services could be expensive and long.
Discrimination: Although the law does not specifically prohibit gender discrimination, it provides for protection of women’s rights to equal access to education, employment, and property. Societal pressures and customs, especially in rural areas, inhibited the full exercise of these rights, particularly with respect to marriage and inheritance. Where local customs remain a strong influence on the family unit, inheritance rights pass to husbands.
Men and women generally enjoyed the same legal rights under property law and under the judicial system, but where citizens observed local customs, these rights were somewhat infringed. The Bureau for Women and Children under the Ministry of Justice and Police worked to protect the legal rights of women and children. Women experienced discrimination in access to employment and in rates of pay for the same or substantially similar work (see section 7.d.). The government did not undertake specific efforts to combat economic discrimination.
The September amendment of the law on Surinamese Citizenship and Residency enables women to convey Surinamese citizenship to their children. Prior to this amendment, citizenship was primarily passed on through paternal blood lineage and could be passed on by the mother only if the father was listed as unknown or was the citizen of a country that does not automatically transfer citizenship.
The National Women’s Movement, the most active women’s rights NGO, continued assisting women in launching small home-based businesses, such as sewing and vegetable growing, and provided general legal help. The Women’s Business Group advocated for business opportunities for women, while the Women’s Parliament Forum advocated for opportunities in the public sector. Another NGO, Stop Violence against Women, assisted victims of domestic violence, including offering legal help with dissolving an abusive marriage. Efforts by the speaker of the National Assembly elevated gender and women’s equality problems to national topics for discussion.