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 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 ($821). 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, and launching a video campaign called “Chile sin Femicidios” (Chile without Femicides), targeted at a male audience and featuring men talking about domestic violence. 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. By law sexual harassment is cause for immediate dismissal from employment. The law requires employers to define internal procedures, or a company policy, for investigating sexual harassment, and employers may face fines and additional financial compensation to victims if it is shown that the company policy on sexual harassment was not followed. The law provides protection to those affected by sexual harassment by employers and coworkers. It also provides severance pay to individuals who resign due to sexual harassment if they have completed at least one year with the employer.
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. Emergency contraception is available 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. The default and most common marital arrangement is “conjugal society,” which provides that a husband has the right to administer joint property, including his wife’s property, without consultation or written permission from his spouse, but a wife must demonstrate that her husband has granted his permission before she is permitted to make financial arrangements. 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 or a joint 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. According to statistics from the civil registry, in 2012 (the most recent year available), 55 percent of couples married in Chile chose to enter into a conjugal society, 42.5 percent of couples chose a separate estate regime, and 2.5 percent chose a joint estate regime.
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 specifically tasked with combatting discrimination against women. Women’s centers throughout the country helped establish equal rights for women by offering services including training, counseling, and legal advice.
A June 3 ceremony launched the new cabinet-level Ministry of Women and Gender Equality.