Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The law recognizes spousal rape. The incidence of rape appeared to be infrequent, although there were no reliable statistics. Police investigate reported rape cases, which are then prosecuted under the law. As of September the Police Domestic Violence Unit reported one rape case. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) often reported a higher incidence of rape than did police reports. As of August the Women and Children Crisis Center reported three sexual assault cases.
The Family Protection Act, which came into force in July 2014, makes domestic violence a crime punishable by up to 12 months in prison, a fine of 2,000 pa’anga ($940), or both. Repeat offenders face up to three years in prison or a maximum fine of 10,000 pa’anga ($4,702). The act provides for protection from domestic violence, introduces protection orders, clarifies the duties of police, and promotes the health, safety, and well-being of domestic violence victims.
The police domestic violence unit has a “no-drop” policy in complaints of domestic assault--once filed, domestic violence cases cannot be dropped and proceed to prosecution in the magistrates’ courts. Following reports of abuse, the unit’s officers counsel victims. Male officers also counsel perpetrators. Police work with the National Center for Women and Children as well as the Women and Children Crisis Center to provide shelter for abused women, and girls and boys under age 14. Both centers operated a safe house for victims. As of August the Women and Children Crisis Center had 48 victims in their safe houses, eight women, 23 girls, and 17 boys. The Crisis Center also reported 163 total domestic violence cases. The Free Wesleyan Church operated a hotline for women in trouble, and the Salvation Army provided counseling and rehabilitation programs.
As of August statistics compiled by the Women and Children Crisis Center indicated that 184 persons received assistance from the center, but the Police Domestic Violence Unit reported 242 domestic violence cases.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not a crime under the law, but physical sexual assault can be prosecuted as indecent assault. Sexual harassment within a domestic relationship is an offense. Complaints received by the police domestic violence unit indicated that sexual harassment of women sometimes occurred. As of August the Women and Children Crisis Center reported no cases of sexual harassment.
Reproductive Rights: In general, couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and to have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Public hospitals, health centers, and several local and international NGOs provided free information about and access to contraception; however, under a Ministry of Health policy, a woman is not permitted to undergo a tubal ligation at a public hospital without the consent of her husband or, in his absence, her male next of kin. Spousal consent is not required for men to undergo a vasectomy. Public hospitals and health centers provide free prenatal, obstetric, and postpartum care. Many pregnant women reportedly did not seek these services, and availability of these services was reduced in the outer islands, which anecdotally contributed to a high maternal mortality rate of 120 deaths per 100,000 live births. According to data published by the World Health Organization, skilled health personnel attend 99 percent of births although not in the outer islands.
Discrimination: Inheritance laws, especially those concerned with land, discriminate against women. Women can lease land, but inheritance rights pass through the male heirs only. Under the inheritance laws, the claim to a father’s estate by a male child born out of wedlock takes precedence over the claim of the deceased’s widow or daughter. If there are no male relatives, a widow is entitled to remain on her husband’s land as long as she does not remarry and remains celibate. Both the inheritance laws and the land rights laws increased economic discrimination that women experienced in terms of their ability to access credit, and own and operate businesses.
Discrimination with respect to employment and wages occurred with respect to women (see section 7.d.). Women who rose to positions of leadership often had links with the nobility. Some female commoners held senior leadership positions in businesses and government.