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Population size: 

4,525,696 [1]

Number of people experiencing domestic abuse each year:

Local NGOs noted the incidence of both reported and unreported rape continued to be high. National statistics on arrests and prosecutions for rape were unavailable, but the Association of Female Heads of Families (AFCF) reported 1,273 rapes between January and September, a marked increase compared with the 412 cases reported for all of 2014.

Domestic violence was also a serious problem. Spousal abuse and domestic violence are illegal, but there are no specific penalties for domestic violence. The government did not enforce the law effectively, and convictions were rare. Most cases went unreported. No reliable government statistics on prosecutions, convictions, and sentences for domestic violence were available. In the course of the year, the AFCF identified 2,375 (a 10 percent increase compared with 2014) minor victims of domestic violence and provided legal assistance to 1,775 of them. [2]

Almost four in ten women (38%) in Mauritania believe that a husband has the right to exercise physical or moral violence against his wife in certain situations. The proportion of women who approve of this violence is higher in the poorest households (47%), and among the least educated women (48%). [3]

No research on male victims or other gender identities.

Cost of domestic abuse to the economy each year:

No research.

Estimated % change due to COVID-19:

No research.

Current law and policy:

In 2020, The Mauritanian government embarked on this legislative reform because of the national outrage in response to the domestic abuse and murder of a young woman called Kadiata Omar Sow.

Previously, in 2016 draft bill on gender-based violence – has been presented to parliament on two occasions and rejected each time. Provisions contained under more general legislation e.g. Article 13 Constitution – no one shall be submitted to torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

In 2019, Human Rights Watch, called for the new President at the time to take steps to reduce the high incidence of gender-based violence and ensure victims had access to justice. There is a lack of strong laws on gender-based violence and of institutions to provide assistance to victims, along with social pressures and stigma. Authorities inadequate in providing support. Called for more funding to assisting victims of violence – establishing short-term and long-term shelters and creating specialised prosecutorial units to pursue cases.[4]

Reservations to Articles 13(a) and 16 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women which relate to eliminating discrimination involving family benefits and requiring equality in marriage and family matters.[5] Mauritania does not have a law at present to prevent gender-based violence. On two occasions, the draft law presented to Parliament has been rejected.  UN has urged the president to urgently relaunch the discussion on the draft bill and adopt legislation that complies with international standards. Victims are blamed as regards rape/lack of resources available and often the women themselves who are punished. 

A mainly poor Muslim nation with deep social and racial divides, each group with its unique marriage norms. Divorce is almost impossible amongst some groups. Domestic violence is seen as an act of love and an accepted practice for some cultural groups. There is an acceptance of being beaten to avoid divorce, seeing husbands’ violence as a sign of love. Inheriting domestic violence from ancestors – part of their traditions.[6]

In 2001, domestic violence against women was criminalised. Under the law, wife-beating is punishable as a crime with up to five years in prison. Prosecutions are rare as women often drop charges for fear of sending their husbands to jail or getting divorced.  No specific penalties and no reliable statistics on prosecutions, convictions and sentencing.

The 2016 Bill calls for stiffer penalties and criminalisation of sexual harassment, and the creation of specific courts to handle sexual violence. It was rejected by Parliament’s Islamic Orientation in 2018 – lacks conformity with Sharia. Interferes with private life.[7]

Laws on violence against women in the family include Article 13 of the Constitution which states no one shall be submitted to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments. It counts these as crimes against humanity. There is no specific legislation to criminalise acts of domestic violence. The Penal Code includes some general prohibitions applicable to domestic violence e.g. murder, assault, battery and other forms of physical violence as well as sexual violence and rape. However, it does not specifically criminalise marital rape.[8]



[1] The World Bank, (1)

[2] UN Women, “Global Database on Violence Against Women – Marshall Islands”, <>



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