Rape and Domestic Violence: On September 6, the government passed the Law on the Prevention and Repression of Violence Against Women and Girls and Support for Victims. As before, rape is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment, but the new law makes spousal rape punishable by 100,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($173 to $866). 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 authorities prosecuted rape cases 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 had experienced physical violence, committed in 68 percent of cases by their husbands.
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, Human Rights, and Civic Promotion 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.
The September 6 law makes “abduction to impose marriage or union without consent” punishable by six months to five years in jail and/or a fine of 500,000 to one million CFA francs ($866 to $1,740). Sexual abuse or torture is punishable by two to five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 to one million CFA francs ($866 to $1,730). Sexual slavery is punishable by two to five years in prison and a fine of one to two million CFA francs ($1,740 to $3,480).
The new law requires police officers aware of violence against a woman or girl to provide for protection of the victim and her minor children. It also mandates the establishment of chambers in the High Court with exclusive jurisdiction over cases of violence against women and girls. The new law creates special structures within each police and gendarmerie unit to assist female victims of violence (or those threatened with violence) and provides for the structures to undertake urgent measures required by the circumstances.
The new law also created care and protection centers in each commune for female victims of violence and a government support fund for their care. The centers receive victims on an emergency basis, offer them security, provide support services (including medical and psychosocial support), and, when possible, refer the victims to court.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: The law prohibits FGM/C, but it was practiced widely, particularly in rural areas, and usually performed at an early age. According to UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) statistics from 2013, the incidence of FGM/C fell 27.5 percent in the last 12 years. Seventy-six percent of girls and women nevertheless between ages 15 and 49 and 13 percent of girls under age 15 reported being subjected to FGM/C, according to UNICEF. Perpetrators, if convicted, are subject to a fine of 150,000 to 900,000 CFA francs ($260 to $1,560) and imprisonment of six months to three years--or up to 10 years if the victim dies.
Security forces and social workers from the Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity arrested several FGM/C perpetrators and their accomplices, all of whom were serving prison sentences at year’s end.
For example, on August 6, police in Manga arrested Pinda Kady Bande for perpetrating FGM/C on eight girls ages two to 17 in the village of Bere. The victims were transferred to Bere’s health center. Bande and the parents of the girls were arrested and referred to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Manga.
The government coordinated its efforts through the National Committee for the Fight against Excision. The government conducted awareness campaigns, training, and programs to identify and support FGM/C victims. The government operated a toll-free number to report FGM/C cases. The government, through the Regional Committees to Combat Excision, worked with local populations to end FGM/C. The regional committees included representatives of numerous government ministries, police, gendarmerie, and local and religious leaders. The Network for Human Rights and the Ministries of Justice, Defense, and Security raised awareness among lawyers, judges, and police about the effects of FGM/C. The government also integrated FGM/C prevention in prenatal, neonatal, and immunization services at 35 percent of public health facilities.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The September 6 law makes the physical or moral abuse of women or girls accused of witchcraft punishable by one to five years in jail and/or a fine of 300,000 to 1.5 million CFA francs ($520 to $2,600). Elderly women without support, living primarily in rural areas and often widowed, sometimes were accused of witchcraft by their neighbors and banned from their villages. Villagers accused such women 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.
Sexual Harassment: The September 6 law makes sexual harassment punishable by three months to one year in jail and/or a fine of 300,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($520 to $866); the maximum penalty applies if the perpetrator is a relative, in a position of authority, or if the victim is “vulnerable.” The government was ineffective in enforcing the law, in large part because many considered sexual harassment culturally acceptable. There were no statistics available on the number of cases reported, prosecutions, or convictions.
Reproductive Rights: The law entitles couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children 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 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. Observers attributed the maternal mortality ratio of 341 per 100,000 live births to lack of access to health care in rural areas. AI reported maternal deaths also resulted from inadequate training of health workers. Post-abortion care services and emergency health care were generally available in urban areas but often not in rural areas.
Discrimination: Although the law generally provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men--including under family, labor, property, and inheritance laws--discrimination frequently occurred in practice. Women occupied 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. Women nevertheless generally received lower pay for equal work, had less education, and owned less property. The law permits polygyny, 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 age 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, low-status 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 authorities often denied women the right to own property, particularly real estate. This condition was exacerbated by the fact that the law defined 75 percent of marriages 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 conducted media campaigns to change attitudes toward women. The Ministry of Women’s Promotion is responsible for increasing women’s awareness of their rights and worked to facilitate their access to land ownership. The government sponsored a number of community outreach efforts and awareness campaigns to promote women’s rights.