Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape. Penalties for rape range from five to 15 years’ imprisonment, and the government generally enforced the law when violations were reported. There was no indication of police or judicial reluctance to act. The law criminalizes both physical and psychological domestic violence and protects the privacy and safety of the victim making the charge of rape or domestic violence. Nonetheless, experts believed that many rape and domestic violence cases went unreported due to fear of further violence, retribution, and social stigma. According to the new Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, one in three women had suffered some kind of domestic violence.
Family courts handle cases of domestic violence and penalize offenders with fines up to 556,680 pesos ($795). Additional sanctions include eviction of the offender from the residence shared with the survivor, restraining orders, confiscation of firearms, and court-ordered counseling. Cases of habitual psychological abuse and physical abuse cases in which there are physical injuries are prosecuted in the criminal justice system. Penalties are based on the gravity of injuries and range from 61 to 540 days’ imprisonment.
The government continued to campaign against domestic violence, focusing its outreach efforts particularly through social media. The Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, through the National Women’s Service (SERNAM), operated women’s centers, which provided legal and mental health support, and women’s shelters. The Ministry of Justice and PDI also operated several offices specifically dedicated to providing counseling and assistance in rape cases. SERNAM maintained partnerships with NGOs to provide training sessions for police officers and judicial and municipal authorities on the legal and psychological aspects of domestic violence. The organization also continued to operate a 24-hour hotline for survivors of violence, including domestic abuse and rape.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is not a criminal offense but is classified as a misdemeanor, with penalties outlined exclusively in the labor code (see section 7.d.).
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Access to sexual and reproductive health services and information was limited in remote regions, which especially affected poor women. During the year Congress passed a law permitting emergency contraception to be sold at pharmacies without a prescription.
Discrimination: Although women possess most of the same legal rights as men, discrimination in employment, pay, owning and managing businesses, and education persisted. There were no known reports of discrimination in credit or housing. The default and most common marital arrangement is “conjugal society,” which gives a husband the right to administer joint property, including his wife’s property. As a result women married under the conjugal society arrangement were usually required to obtain permission from their husbands to apply for housing subsidies and take out loans or mortgages, while men had unrestricted access to these and other services. Legislation remained pending years after a 2007 agreement with the IACHR to modify the conjugal society law to give women and men equal rights and responsibilities in marriage. The commercial code provides that unless a woman is married under the separate estate regime, she may not enter into a commercial partnership agreement without permission from her husband, while a man may enter into such an agreement without permission from his wife.
Despite a law providing for equal pay for equal work, the average woman’s annual income was 32 percent less than that of men, according to the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality. The ministry is in charge of protecting women’s legal rights and is the only government office that deals specifically with discrimination against women. Women’s centers throughout the country helped establish equal rights for women by offering services such as training, counseling, and legal advice.
On March 8, President Bachelet signed a law creating the cabinet-level Ministry of Women and Gender Equality. SERNAM moved from the Ministry of Social Development to operate under the auspices of the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, a transition that was scheduled to be completed by March 2016. Additionally, the new ministry was tasked with establishing regional offices in support of its mission of gender equality in each region of the country by March 2016.