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.
In March parliament amended the general penal code to criminalize domestic violence specifically with a maximum penalty of 16 years in prison.
Violence against women continued to be a problem. Many victims declined to press charges because they did not think they would win their cases in court or they did not have the stamina to go through court proceedings. In a number of cases, victims were not able to press charges because the statute of limitations had expired. In 2015, the most recent year for which data were available, 9 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. Courts often based 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 2015 a total of 121 women sought assistance at the rape crisis center of the National University Hospital of Iceland, and 126 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 assisted 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 2015 prosecutors brought three cases to trial at the district court level and obtained convictions in two. One case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which had not ruled in the case as of September 14.
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: Women have the same legal status and rights as men according to the constitution and the law. 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.). The Gender Equality Complaints Committee ruled that the National Archives of Iceland violated the law on equal status when it established a lower number of fixed monthly overtime hours for a female employee than for a male employee in a comparable position over a period of roughly two years.
Birth Registration: A child acquires the country’s citizenship at birth if both parents are citizens, if the mother is a citizen, or if the father is a citizen and is married to the child’s foreign mother. If a mixed-nationality couple had obtained a judicial separation at the time when the child was conceived, however, the child acquires the mother’s citizenship. A stateless child can become a citizen at the age of three. In all cases a child’s access to social services depends on whether he or she has a residence permit in the country. Registration of birth was prompt.
Child Abuse: In 2015, the latest year for which data were available, local child protection committees, whose work the Agency for Child Protection coordinates, received 2,216 reports of abuse, including 1,282 reports of emotional abuse (including 676 reports of domestic violence), 491 of physical abuse, and 460 of sexual abuse (some cases counted as more than one kind of abuse).
The agency operated a diagnostic and short-term treatment center for abused and troubled minors, and was responsible for three long-term treatment facilities. It also coordinated the work of 27 committees throughout the country responsible for local management of child-protection cases. The local committees hired professionals with expertise in social work and child protection.
The government maintained a children’s assessment center to accelerate prosecution of child sexual abuse cases and lessen the trauma experienced by the child.
The prime minister appoints the children’s ombudsman, who acts independently of the government. The ombudsman’s mandate is to protect children’s rights, interests, and welfare. When investigating complaints, which typically involved physical and psychological abuse and inadequate accommodation for children with illnesses or disabilities, the ombudsman has access to all public and private institutions that housed or otherwise cared for children. The ombudsman is not empowered to intervene in individual cases but can investigate them for indications of a general trend. The ombudsman can also initiate cases at her discretion. While the ombudsman’s recommendations are not binding on authorities, generally the government adopted them.
Early and Forced Marriage: The country’s minimum age for marriage is 18 for both sexes.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits, with fines or imprisonment for up to two years, the payment, or promise to pay or render consideration of another type, for prostitution involving a child under the age of 18. The law prohibits child pornography, which is punishable by up to two years in prison. The law criminalizes statutory rape with incarceration for one to 16 years. The government effectively enforced these laws. The minimum age for consensual sex is 15.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
Officials estimated the Jewish community to be fewer than 100 individuals, and there is no synagogue or Jewish cultural center in the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other government services. The law provides that persons with disabilities receive preference for government and municipal jobs when they are at least as qualified as other applicants. Disability rights advocates asserted that the government did not fully implement the constitution and the law.
The law provides that persons with disabilities have access to buildings, information, and communications. Building regulations prescribe that buildings and building premises be designed in accordance with “universal design.” Universal design is meant to ensure that persons are not discriminated against on the basis of a disability or illness regarding access or the general use of buildings, and to ensure that people can safely enter and exit buildings, even under abnormal circumstances, such as in the case of fire. Disability rights advocates complained that authorities did not fully implement the law and regulations and access to public information was unsatisfactory, since not all persons with disabilities, in particular persons with vision disabilities, had access to the internet. While violations of these regulations are punishable by a fine or a jail sentence of up to two years, one of the main associations for persons with disabilities contended that authorities rarely, if ever, assessed penalties for noncompliance.
Employment discrimination occurred.
Immigrants, mainly of non-Western origin and from Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries, and asylum seekers, suffered occasional incidents of harassment based on their ethnicity.
Anecdotal evidence suggested that some landlords were reluctant or unwilling to rent residential facilities to persons other than ethnic Icelanders. Employment discrimination occurred. In January the Directorate of Labor started offering services targeted at refugees and asylum seekers to assist them with finding employment. In September parliament approved an action plan on immigration issues for the years 2016-19, which included items focusing on providing equal employment opportunities for immigrants, prioritizing wage equality, and increasing continuing education opportunities and job-related education to strengthen contact networks.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
While the constitution does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, it does so implicitly. The law prohibits anyone from denying a person goods or services on an equal footing with others on grounds of that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It also prohibits denying a person access to a public meeting place or other places open to the public on the same footing with others on grounds of that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The law further prohibits incitement to hatred against persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and the dissemination of hateful material.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Immigrants, mainly of non-Western origin, and asylum seekers, suffered occasional incidents of harassment based on their religious beliefs.