Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and provides penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment for convicted rapists. Nevertheless, authorities seldom prosecuted rape cases. The law does not address spousal rape. There were no reliable statistics on the prevalence of rape, but a women’s advocacy NGO estimated it to be a frequent occurrence. Discussing rape remained taboo, and women often opted not to report it due to shame or fear of reprisal. Only limited medical and legal assistance for rape victims was available.
Although the law prohibits domestic violence, NGOs reported it was common. Penalties for conviction range from two months’ to 15 years’ imprisonment. Women virtually never filed complaints, although the government operated a counseling group to provide support for abuse victims. An NGO operated a center to assist victims of domestic violence, and the government provided it with some in-kind support. Through the center’s work, police intervened in response to some incidents of domestic violence.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Ritual killings in which limbs, genitals, or other organs were amputated occurred and often went unpunished. The practice was driven by the belief that certain body parts enhanced certain strengths. Blood was also used in rituals.
The local NGO Association to Fight Ritual Crimes (ALCR) reported 30 victims of ritual killings from January to October. The actual number of victims was probably higher, according to the ALCR, which noted many ritual killings were not reported or were incorrectly characterized. During the year no arrests were made for ritual killing.
Prime Minister Daniel Ona Ondo announced in 2014 the government would organize a special criminal session to try pending cases of ritual crime, including ritual killings. Although no such special sessions occurred during the year, the ALCR produced recommendations for the government on how to combat ritual crimes. These recommendations included adding the term “ritual crime” to the penal code, the establishment of a specialized ritual crimes response unit, and training for judges on how to handle ritual crimes cases. During the year a law increasing penalties for perpetrators of ritual crimes was passed by the National Assembly and the Senate.
Sexual Harassment: No law prohibits sexual harassment, and it was a widespread problem. NGOs reported sexual harassment of women in the military was pervasive.
Reproductive Rights: The government recognized the right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have access to the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. According to the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), 19 percent of married women used a modern method of contraception. Health clinics and local health NGOs operated freely in disseminating information on the use of contraceptives and family planning commodities; however, the DHS estimated 27 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning services.
The government provided free childbirth delivery services, including prenatal and postnatal care. Emergency obstetric and reproductive health care, including for the management of complications arising from abortion, was available. The World Health Organization estimated the maternal mortality rate to be 291 deaths for every 100,000 live births in 2014. The high maternal mortality rate was attributed to inadequate skill of health-care providers, lack of access to emergency obstetric care and family planning services, and high rates of adolescent pregnancy, estimated at 115 per 1,000 for girls and women ages 15 to 19. The Ministry of Health suggested the common practice of not seeking prenatal care also played a role.
Discrimination: Although the law does not generally distinguish between the legal status and rights of women and men, it requires a married woman to obtain her husband’s permission to receive a passport and to travel abroad. No specific law requires equal pay for equal work. Women owned businesses and property, participated in politics, and worked in government and the private sector. Nevertheless, women continued to face considerable societal discrimination, including in obtaining loans and credit and, for married women, opening bank accounts without their husbands’ permission and administering jointly owned assets, especially in rural areas (see section 7.d.).