Panama Human Rights

Human rights concerns: Police abuses, violence against women, right to health

Violent crime continues unabated across the country. Police often respond with excessive force against those in custody.

Violence against women and girls

Reports of rape and other sexual violence continued to rise. Police statistics revealed that there were 654 rape cases reported from January to October, compared with 526 cases during the same period last year. Few alleged perpetrators were held accountable because victims and witnesses were unwilling to come forward due to fear of violence by their husbands, other relatives and the police.

Women’s rights

In November, the only woman parliamentarian and cabinet minister Carol Kidu together with the National Council of Women called on the government to allocate an additional eight national parliament seats to women by 2012, increasing the total number of seats from 109 to 117. As a temporary measure ahead of the 2012 elections, the cabinet endorsed the tabling of a motion in parliament to invoke a constitutional provision allowing for the nomination, rather than election, of three members to parliament. This would enable the nomination of three women as independent members in 2009.

In September, Prime Minister Michael Somare publicly announced his support for affirmative action to get more women into parliament.

"There were numerous cases of violence, including killings of people accused of practising sorcery…"

Right to health

In July, Health Minister Sasa Sibe stated that despite the allocation of US$78 million for the health department, efforts to improve the health system were at a standstill. He blamed doctors and nurses for refusing to be posted to the rural areas, where the need for health services was greatest.

Maternal mortality

In July, the government acknowledged that the poor state of health services and facilities contributed to approximately 2,600 women dying yearly during childbirth. HIV/AIDS

In January, the government submitted its country report on the UN Guidelines on AIDS to the UN General Assembly. The National Prevention Strategic Plan includes specific programmes and interventions to target high risk groups such as sex workers and men having sex with men.

In November, a report by the Papua New Guinea Independent Review Group on HIV highlighted that HIV infection rates had escalated. However, there were very few clinics in rural areas to deal with the rising epidemic.