Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape carries a maximum penalty of 16 years in prison. Judges typically imposed sentences of two to three years. The law does not explicitly address spousal rape. Activists continued to complain that the burden of proof in rape cases was too heavy and discouraged victims from reporting acts of rape and authorities from prosecuting them. The government did not respond formally to these concerns.
While the law prohibits violence, it does not specifically address domestic violence. The penalties can range from a fine to 16 years in prison, depending on the type of violence committed. In addition, the law permits judges to increase the sentences of persons who commit violence against persons with whom they had a domestic relationship or other close bond. While judges utilized this provision to hand down stronger domestic violence sentences, one respected activist expressed concern that sentences were still too mild and too few.
Violence against women continued to be a problem. A large majority of victims historically declined to press charges or chose to forgo trial, in part to avoid publicity. In 2014, the most recent year for which data were available, 13.2 percent of the clients of the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence pressed charges. Some local human rights monitors attributed the underreporting of domestic violence and sex crimes to the infrequency of convictions and to traditionally light sentences. In the few cases of domestic violence that went to trial, the courts often continued to base sentences on precedent and rarely made full use of the more stringent sentencing authority available under the law.
Victims of domestic violence can request police to remove perpetrators physically from the home for up to four weeks at a time. Police can also impose a 72-hour restraining order to prevent abusers from coming into proximity with the victim, and courts can extend this restraining order for up to a year. The law entitles victims of sex crimes to a lawyer to advise them of their rights and to help them pursue charges against the alleged assailants. In 2014 a total of 120 women sought assistance at the rape crisis center of the National University Hospital of Iceland, and 100 women sought temporary lodging at the country’s shelter for women, mainly because of domestic violence. The shelter also offered counseling.
The government helped finance the Women’s Shelter, the Counseling and Information Center for Survivors of Sexual Violence, the rape crisis center of the national hospital, and other organizations that assisted victims of domestic or gender-based violence. In addition to partially funding such services, the government provided help to immigrant women in abusive relationships, offering emergency accommodation, counseling, and information on legal rights.
Sexual Harassment: Two laws prohibit sexual harassment. The general penal code makes sexual harassment punishable by imprisonment for up to two years. The law on equal status defines sexual harassment more broadly as any type of unfair or offensive physical, verbal, or symbolic sexual behavior that is unwanted and affects the self-respect of the victim, and is continued despite a clear indication that the behavior is undesired. The law requires employers and organization supervisors to make specific arrangements to prevent employees, students, and clients from becoming victims of gender-based or sexual harassment. Victims of harassment can report incidents to the Complaints Committee on Equal Status. The law requires only employers with 25 or more employees to provide employees information on the legal prohibitions against sexual harassment in the workplace. The law establishes fines for violations, but more severe penalties could be applicable under other laws. According to the latest available information from the State Prosecutor’s Office, in 2014 prosecutors brought four cases to trial and obtained convictions in one at the district court level. One case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the conviction.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right 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, or violence.
Discrimination: The constitution states that “men and women shall enjoy equal rights in all respects.” The law does not prohibit discrimination, but it does not mandate different statuses for men and women in family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws either. The law states that employers and unions should work towards gender equality in the labor market, especially in managerial positions, and that employers should work towards declassifying jobs as primarily female- or male-oriented. Employment discrimination occurred (see section 7.d.).
Despite laws that require equal pay for equal work, a pay gap existed between men and women. Using Eurostat’s methodology, Statistics Iceland published a report in May showing the gender pay gap amounted to 18.3 percent overall in 2014, with 19.9 percent in the private sector and 13.2 percent in the public sector. The survey did not take into consideration factors such as type of profession, education, age, and length of employment. According to a salary survey of its members conducted by the country’s largest labor union, the VR, and published in September, the gender-based pay gap amounted to 9.9 percent after taking into consideration age, length of employment, profession, job sector, education, number of employees supervised, number of hours worked, and shift work.
As of November 23, the Gender Equality Complaints Committee ruled that the law on equal status was violated six times. In the first case, the committee ruled that a district commissioner violated the law when the commissioner temporarily hired two men as police lieutenants instead of a woman, based on unsuitable and subjective standards for determining their qualifications. In the second case, the Ministry of the Interior violated the law by appointing three men as assistant chiefs of police at the Metropolitan Police District instead of a female candidate, based on sex-based discrimination in scoring her job interview. In the third case, the committee ruled that an unnamed entity violated the law when it hired a male applicant as its managing director instead of a more qualified woman. In the fourth case, an unnamed health center violated the law by hiring a woman instead of an equally qualified man as a psychologist where the ratio of female to male psychologists was greater. In the fifth case, the Central Bank of Iceland violated the law by establishing a lower starting salary for a female employee than for a male employee who started in an equal position at the same time. In the sixth case, the committee ruled that the Bishop of Iceland had violated the law by appointing a man instead of a woman to the position of a Lutheran minister after a selection committee failed to evaluate the two candidates on an equal basis.