Atlas of Gender and Development

Atlas of Gender and Development

How Social Norms Affect Gender Equality in non-OECD Countries You do not have access to this content

OECD Development Centre

Click to Access:
  • PDF
  • READ
22 Feb 2010
9789264077478 (PDF) ;9789264075207(print)

Hide / Show Abstract

Illustrated with graphics and maps, the Atlas of Gender and Development gives readers a unique insight into the impact of social institutions − traditions, social norms and cultural practices − on gender equality in 124 non-OECD countries.

Gender inequality holds back not just women but the economic and social development of entire societies. Overcoming discrimination is important in the fight against poverty in developing countries and for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Tackling these inequalities is not easy: in many countries, discrimination against women is deeply rooted in social institutions such as the family and the law. These long-lasting codes of conduct, norms, traditions, and informal and formal laws determine gender  outcomes in education, health, political representation and labour markets.

The Atlas of Gender and Development is an indispensable tool for development practitioners, policy makers, academics and the wider public. It provides detailed country notes, maps and graphics describing the situation of women in 124 developing and transition countries using a new composite measure of gender inequality - the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) - developed by the OECD Development Centre.

"By providing information on the role of underlying social institutions, the Atlas of Gender and Development fills a gap in the reference literature on women and development. Recommended for academic libraries."
                                                                       -Feminist Collections, Volume 32, No. 1

loader image

Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Table of Contents

  • Mark Click to Access
  • Foreword
    Gender equality is a fundamental human right as well as a key driver for economic growth. It is therefore considered a priority on the development agenda. While there has been significant progress towards achieving gender equality, across the world many women continue to face discrimination with regard to decent employment, access to credit, property or land; their civil liberties are still limited in some parts of the world and they are often victims of violence in times of both war and peace.
  • Acknowledgements
    This Atlas of Gender and Development: How Social Norms Affect Gender Equality in non-OECD Countries is the result of the OECD Development Centre’s work on the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), which was constructed in collaboration with a research team from Göttingen University and under the leadership of Johannes Jütting, Head of the Poverty Reduction and Social Development Unit at the Development Centre. We would like in particular to extend our gratitude to Stephan Klasen, Maria Ziegler and Boris Branisa from Göttingen University.
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
    Women and gender equality are critical to global efforts to achieve sustainable development and poverty reduction. Educating and empowering women economically has an impact on the health and wealth of households, and increasing their participation in the labour market could help to drive economic growth around the world. In addition to fulfilling women’s human rights, there is also an economic case for promoting gender equality.
  • Why do we need a SIGI index?
    Measuring the status and tracking the progress of gender equality is an important undertaking, but a difficult one given the various dimensions along which discrimination against women occurs. The Social Institutions and Development Index (SIGI) focuses on an aspect of gender inequality that is usually neglected by other gender-related measures, which tend to focus on measuring gender inequalities in education, health, economic or political participation and other dimensions. By contrast, the SIGI measures social institutions – as mirrored by societal practices and legal norms – that produce inequalities between women and men in non-OECD countries. The added value of the SIGI is that it presents a wide range of new dimensions and variables that are not considered by other indices. It offers additional information, which complements – as apposed to substitutes – existing measures.
  • World Overview
    Gender discrimination in social institutions spans the world – from highly developed countries such as the Gulf States to low income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Overall, the regions of the world fall into two main groups: On the one hand is South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa, where on average gender discrimination as measured on the SIGI is high to very high; on the other is East Asia and Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe and Central Asia, a grouping characterised by lower levels of gender inequality.
  • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts East Asia and Pacific

    • Mark Click to Access
    • East Asia and Pacific
      Gender discrimination in social institutions is fairly low across the 17 countries of the East Asia and Pacific region, but there are exceptions: China, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia all figure in the bottom half of the SIGI ranking and display high inequalities in terms of son preference and women’s physical integrity. It should be noted that gender equality can vary greatly not just between countries in this region but within them. This is largely due to a rural-urban divide, and often high levels of social diversity and ethnic fragmentation.
    • Cambodia
      Cambodia’s 1993 Constitution guarantees equal rights to men and women in all areas of society, and the country has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). But despite additional national laws and government initiatives that promote the well-being and empowerment of women, their implementation remains poor.
    • China
      The situation of women in China has improved significantly since the government established a gender equality policy in 1949, and the country has ratified CEDAW. Education and labour force participation of women have since increased, while harmful practices (such as foot-binding of young girls) have been abolished and patriarchal norms have weakened.
    • Fiji
      Fiji ratified CEDAW in 1995, but progress has been limited in incorporating and implementing its provisions. According to a report by Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), women gained more rights with the introduction of the 1997 Constitution. However, they experienced a severe setback as a result of the attempted coup d’état in May 2000 and the ensuing political instability.
    • Hong Kong, China
      In 1997, Hong Kong, China, enacted a Sex Discrimination Ordinance that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status or pregnancy. While people acknowledge that gender stereotyping still exists, the popular belief is that it is not a particularly serious problem.
    • Indonesia
      Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world: more than 85% of its 235 million citizens are Muslims. Much of Indonesian legislation emphasises the importance of equal opportunities for men and women, but secular laws co-exist wi
    • Korea, Democratic People's Republic
      Throughout Korea’s Chosn Dynasty (1392-1910), women had few social, economic and political opportunities, and their access to formal education was limited. The social status of women changed in 1945, following the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (commonly known as North Korea). The principle of equality between men and women is stipulated in a number of laws, including the Constitution.
    • Lao, People's Democratic Republic
      The 1991 Constitution of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR, commonly known as Laos) guarantees the principle of gender equality. Although equality is promoted further in a number of specific laws, legal awareness remains low, partly because more women than men are illiterate.
    • Malaysia
      The situation for women in Malaysia is improving over time as the government continues to implement legal amendments designed to eliminate discrimination. Much of this progress can be attributed to increased access to education for women and greater awareness of their constitutional rights.
    • Mongolia
      The Mongolian Constitution of 1992 prohibits all forms of discrimination, stating that "no person may be discriminated against on the basis of ethnic origin, language, race, age, sex, social origin or status, property or post, religion, opinion, or education".
    • Myanmar
      Myanmar is a multicultural society comprising some 135 ethnic groups, with Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan being the largest communities. Women’s equal rights are safeguarded in national legislation, as well as in traditions and dhammathats (customary laws). Despite this legislation, there is a gender-based division of labour: in addition to performing 80% of all agricultural labour, women carry the main burden of household work.
    • Papua New Guinea
      Papua New Guinea is home to a number of different clans and tribes whose kinship ties determine the manner of relations between people. In general, women lack equal access to education and lag behind men in terms of employment opportunities. Violence against women is common, and is exacerbated by widespread poverty.
    • Philippines
      In 1987, the government of the Philippines introduced a Constitution that affirms equality for all citizens. Still, significant gender imbalances remain. Customary laws that discriminate against women prevail, particularly in rural areas where girls and boys have unequal access to education, and men and women have different employment opportunities. In the cities, government agencies are slowly recognising women’s rights and granting them legal authority to exercise those rights, especially in concluding contracts, and owning land or property.
    • Singapore
      The Singapore Constitution provides men and women with equal political, economic and social rights. Negative stereotypes of women have been eliminated over time, largely due to increased levels of education and better job opportunities for women.
    • Chinese Taipei
      Over the past century, Chinese Taipei has adopted a Western civil legal system. Despite these developments, its Civil Code retains strong paternal characteristics. A comparative study by Chen suggests that legislation in the People’s Republic of China is better at upholding the principle of gender equality.
    • Thailand
      The 1997 Constitution provides women and men in Thailand with equal rights. Nevertheless, gender inequality is manifest in violence against women, discrimination and human trafficking for prostitution.
    • Timor-Leste
      The Constitution of the Democratic Republic of East Timor supports freedom from gender-based discrimination. Following 25 years of brutal civil war, both women and men struggle with widespread poverty, unemployment and general poor health. Particularly vulnerable groups include war widows, women stigmatised because they have mothered children of Indonesian soldiers, and internally displaced women and children.
    • Viet Nam
      The position of Vietnamese women has improved since the 1950s. In 2006, the National Assembly passed the country’s first Law on Gender Equality. According to the US Department of State, this law aims to address a range of issues (such as wage gaps) and eliminate discrimination based on gender.
    • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Europe and Central Asia

    • Mark Click to Access
    • Europe and Central Asia
      Gender discrimination in social institutions is relatively low in the 17 countries of Europe and Central Asia. All of the countries ranked in the SIGI are in the top half of the distribution with Croatia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine figuring among the top ten. However, women’s physical integrity remains a key concern in the region.
    • Albania
      The Albanian Constitution states that all individuals are equal before the law and that "no person will be unjustly discriminated against due to his or her sex". Legislation makes provisions for treaties to supersede national law and the parliament has ratified CEDAW. Despite these signs of progress, however, much of Albanian society remains highly patriarchal.
    • Armenia
      The Soviet period significantly influenced the position of women in Armenia. The regime gave women the right to inherit and own land, and promoted education as well as work outside the home. It made mutual consent a requirement for marriage and banned dowries. After Armenia gained independence, however, some traditional social institutions have experienced a resurgence, and in some areas, the position of women has been weakened.
    • Azerbaijan
      The Constitution of Azerbaijan guarantees equality and rights for all citizens. Article 25 specifically prohibits any restriction of these rights on the grounds of gender. Principles contained in the Employment Code, the Penal Code and the Marriage and Family Code all stem from the Constitution, thereby further sanctioning equal rights and freedoms for men and women.
    • Belarus
      Article 22 of the Belarusian Constitution states that all citizens are equal before the law. The new Penal Code, adopted in 2002, punishes all violations or limitations on rights and freedoms, as well as all preferential treatment based on race, ethnicity, language, origin, opinions or membership of a civil society organisation and which does significant harm to the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of the citizen.
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina
      The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina explicitly prohibits all direct or indirect discrimination, whether on the grounds of sex, race, language, politics, religion or national or social origin. The country ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in September 2003.
    • Croatia
      Compared with many of its neighbouring countries, Croatia is relatively homogenous in terms of religion and culture. Concerns remain regarding violence against women, but the government is working to reduce its prevalence throughout the country.
    • Georgia
      The Constitution of Georgia upholds the principle of equal rights for men and women. However, the current situation in the country creates many challenges for women. Over the past ten years, approximately one-fifth of Georgia’s population has left, primarily to escape poverty. As most emigrants were men, an increasing number of women are now the sole providers for their families. About 50% of Georgian women are unemployed; and those who work earn, on average, only half as much as men.
    • Kazakhstan
      Article 14 of the 1995 Constitution of Kazakhstan upholds the principle of legal equality for all citizens. Kazakh legislation does not yet refer specifically to gender-based discrimination, but the government plans to propose a bill addressing this issue. Article 4 of the Constitution gives force of law to all international treaties ratified by Kazakhstan. As a result, there are grounds to apply in every day law the definition of discrimination given in Article 1 of CEDAW. Kazakh women are not sufficiently aware of the Convention’s provisions, however, and a similar lack of awareness exists among the civil servants responsible for applying them. To date, no judicial rulings have been made referring to the Convention and acts of violence against women remain a fact of life in Kazakhstan.
    • Kyrgyzstan
      Article 3 of the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan prohibits all discrimination on the grounds of gender, ethnic origin or religious belief. Article 8 recognises the existence of certain discriminatory traditions or customary norms that are obstacles to gender equality in the country. The civil, penal, labour and family codes of Kyrgyzstan all uphold equal rights and the legal framework protecting Kyrgyz women’s rights complies with international standards. Discrimination against women prevails, however, and violence against women is becoming increasingly widespread. Women are generally ill-informed about their rights and the traditional patriarchal system perpetuates gender-based stereotypes.
    • Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of
      Macedonia ratified CEDAW in 1991. The right to non-discrimination is upheld in the country’s Constitution and Macedonian law provides men and women with equal rights and freedoms. Recent amendments removed the last discriminatory provisions in the legislation, but social stereotypes still prevail, particularly in the media. Macedonian social institutions place women at a lower position than men in many areas of life, including within the family.
    • Moldova
      Moldova has been marked by a violent history and currently suffers from a very high poverty rate. The country regained its independence in 1989, but has since been enmeshed in an ongoing economic crisis. The crisis has a big effect on Moldovan women, of which almost two-thirds are unemployed. A significant proportion of Moldovan women thus work abroad.
    • Russian Federation
      Article 19 of the Russian Constitution guarantees equal rights for all citizens and specifically upholds the principle of equality between men and women.
    • Serbia and Montenegro
      Serbia has signed CEDAW and has taken steps to achieve the Convention’s objectives. The situation in the country remains complex, however, because the population is made up of several different ethnic groups, languages and religions. Serbia experienced a high level of conflict over the past 15 years. Whilst this affected the whole population, women were often more vulnerable than men; ethnic rape, for example, has been a particular problem.
    • Tajikistan
      The Constitution of Tajikistan upholds the principle of equality for all citizens, regardless of gender. According to the local authorities, there are no laws or regulatory provisions that discriminate against women.
    • Turkmenistan
      Article 18 of the Constitution of Turkmenistan upholds the principle of equality between men and women and prohibits all forms of discrimination. The authorities consider the country’s legislative and regulatory frameworks to be free of discriminatory provisions, yet Turkmenistan is an authoritarian state that often stands accused of obstructing the rights and freedoms of a large proportion of its population, but various sources report that women’s rights are often severely breached. The Labour Code limits the professional opportunities of women and offers them no protection except in their maternal obligations. Social stereotypes prevail and have become more widespread since the country became independent in 2001. For the most part, the social position of women is defined according to their role as mothers.
    • Ukraine
      The Constitution of Ukraine upholds the principle of equality between men and women and the country’s Penal Code specifically mentions the need to eradicate all forms of discrimination. In general terms, Ukraine’s legislation upholds the rights of women and guarantees their protection. However, though a law providing for equal opportunities for men and women was passed in 2006, few judges are aware of its existence. Negative stereotypes also persist, continuing to limit women’s participation in society. This effect is exacerbated by the low level of female representation in decision-making bodies. Poverty and cultural attitudes also contribute to discrimination against women in Ukraine.
    • Uzbekistan
      The Constitution of Uzbekistan prohibits all forms of discrimination and provides for equal rights for men and women. In reality, a very strong patriarchal tradition affects the role of women both in the family and within society in general. Moreover, the resurgent nationalist movement has reinforced traditional gender stereotypes. Fewer than three-quarters of Uzbek women believe they have the same rights as men.
    • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Latin America and the Caribbean

    • Mark Click to Access
    • Latin America and the Caribbean
      Gender discrimination in social institutions is low across Latin America and the Caribbean; overall, it is the region with the smallest range of gender disparity between the 22 countries. All ranked countries in the region are in the top half of the SIGI, and Paraguay is the top performer overall. Despite this strong performance, the low protection of women’s physical integrity is a concern.
    • Argentina
      The Argentine Constitution (amended in 1994) guarantees the equality of both genders and prohibits any form of discrimination against women. Nonetheless, traditional views and stereotypes of women and the family lead to discriminatory practices.
    • Bolivia
      The Constitution of Bolivia guarantees equal rights for men and women, but in general Bolivian women have a lower level of protection than men. Many women are not aware of their rights and tradition remains influential. Living conditions for Bolivian women are among the most difficult in Latin America. They are often the victims of violence and discrimination, and cultural prejudice still limits their access to land. Nevertheless, the overall situation of women appears to have improved in recent years.
    • Brazil
      The 1988 Constitution of Brazil upholds the principle of equality between men and women, particularly within the family, and prohibits all forms of discrimination. It also sets forth the State’s obligation to eradicate all forms of domestic violence. The government recently amended the 1916 Civil Code and the Penal Code of 1940, both of which included provisions that discriminated against women.
    • Chile
      The Constitution of Chile was reformed in 1999 to include specific provisions upholding equality between men and women and to prohibit gender-based discrimination. In general, however, the country remains marked by persistent sexual inequality. Chile is one of the few states in the world to have elected a female president, Michèle Bachelet, and parity is respected within the government.
    • Colombia
      The Colombian Constitution upholds the principle of equality between men and women in all public and private spheres, yet many forms of discrimination persist. Women are more affected by unemployment than men and receive lower wages. This disparity is widest in rural areas. The number of households headed by women rose significantly between 1992 and 2001. Women who are solely responsible for their families are the most vulnerable to poverty.
    • Costa Rica
      The Constitution of Costa Rica provides the same rights, freedoms and opportunities for all individuals and prohibits any form of discrimination. The situation of women improved during the 1990s, but social discrimination remains evident, particularly with regards to access to land and credit. Domestic violence is still a major problem and seems to have increased in recent years.
    • Cuba
      The 1976 Constitution of Cuba, along with constitutional amendments made in 1992, upholds the principle of equality between men and women and discrimination is formally prohibited. The Penal Code stipulates that infringements of "the right to equality" are punishable by imprisonment (according to Article 295 of the Criminal Code).
    • Dominican Republic
      Women in the Dominican Republic face several gender-related challenges. Women are much more severely affected by unemployment than men, and their activities are more limited. Domestic violence is frequent, and seems to have increased in recent years. In rural areas, inequality is evident in that women have poor access to healthcare, education and bank loans.
    • Ecuador
      The Constitution of Ecuador upholds the principle of gender equality and guarantees human rights. It prohibits any form of sexual discrimination without exception and provides for equal opportunity for men and women in access to productive resources and in marriage.
    • El Salvador
      The Constitution of El Salvador neither defines nor explicitly prohibits discrimination. The legislation provides for equality in the exercise of civil and political rights, but does not mention economic, social or cultural rights. The Penal Code provides for sanctions only in the case of severe discrimination.
    • Guatemala
    • Haiti
      The Constitution of Haiti does not specifically prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender, although the ratified International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ostensibly mandates such protections. In 1994, the government established a Ministry for the Status of Women, which has mostly had a symbolic rather than a concrete role in changing the lives of women. Tradition still restricts Haitian women in the exercise of their rights and prevents them from acquiring the same social and economic status as men. Women in rural areas in particular remain confined to traditional roles and activities. Nearly half of Haitian households are headed by women.
    • Honduras
      The Constitution of Honduras prohibits all forms of discrimination and federal legislation makes clear reference to equality for men and women. Patriarchal beliefs continue to influence the ideology of public institutions and political parties, however, and represent the main obstacle to improving conditions for women in the country. Interpersonal relations between men and women in Honduras are largely influenced by tradition and sexism is firmly rooted. The feminist movement in Honduras grew significantly in the 1980s and 1990s, and paved the way for the adoption of several laws favourable to women.
    • Jamaica
      Jamaican legislation prohibits all discrimination based on race or religion, but does not make any reference to gender. The government is reviewing a draft charter on fundamental rights that would specify gender on the list of prohibited discriminations. Jamaica’s Civil Code and Penal Code still contain numerous discriminatory measures, and the language used in the country’s laws is not gender-neutral. Traditional gender stereotypes are institutionalised within Jamaica’s education system, the media, religion and the family.
    • Nicaragua
      The 1987 Constitution of Nicaragua grants equal civil rights to all citizens and prohibits gender-based discrimination. The new Penal Code, adopted in 2001, introduced laws to prohibit and criminalise discriminatory acts. A second report on human development in Nicaragua, produced in 2002, noted significant progress in some areas. It stated that social and cultural behaviour was becoming less discriminatory, but domestic and sexual violence continued to undermine women’s rights to a significant degree. Poverty is widespread in Nicaragua, but has the greatest impact on households headed by women in rural areas (about one-fifth of rural households).
    • Panama
      The Constitution of Panama prohibits all forms of discrimination, but various cultural, political and social restrictions undermine women’s ability to exercise their rights. Despite new laws and legal amendments that improve the situation of women, inequalities remain. Housewives and women in rural communities are particularly affected.
    • Paraguay
      The 1992 Constitution of Paraguay upholds the principle of equality for all individuals and prohibits discrimination. The government claims to have removed most of the discriminatory clauses in the country’s existing legislation. Feminist organisations conducted significant awareness-raising campaigns during the 1990s, which helped develop a legal and institutional framework to guarantee the protection of women’s rights.
    • Peru
      The Constitution of Peru upholds the principle of equality between men and women. The government passed a law in 2000 that criminalised discrimination, and introduced penalties requiring offenders to provide 30 to 70 days of community service. Despite such advances, long-standing social prejudices and discrimination against women have resulted in women experiencing higher levels of poverty and unemployment than men. In addition, Peruvian tradition prevents women from holding senior positions in both the public and private sectors.
    • Puerto Rico
      Puerto Rico is a semi-autonomous territory of the United States. The Constitution of Puerto Rico states that "all men are equal and no discrimination may be made on the basis of race, colour, [and] gender (…)", thereby upholding the principle of equality between men and women. However, the country has not ratified CEDAW. Its "territory" status means that it cannot sign international agreements or instruments, and also makes it very difficult to obtain information about the situation of women. It is known, however, that social stereotypes prevail regarding the role of women. In 2001, the government established a Bureau for the Defence of Women (Oficina de la Procuradora de las Mujeres). A very large number of Puerto Rican households are headed by single women, who generally have low incomes.
    • Trinidad and Tobago
      The Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago prohibits all forms of discrimination on the grounds of gender. This ruling concerns the State alone, however, and does not cover nonstate or private parties. The article in the Constitution does not apply when it conflicts with existing laws. Violence against women is a serious problem and is linked to strong patriarchal traditions and male dominance in daily life.
    • Uruguay
      Article 8 of the Constitution of Uruguay upholds the equality of all citizens, but does not specifically refer to gender equality. Uruguay has ratified CEDAW and, in 2007, passed a law on equal rights and opportunities for men and women. The country’s law against racism, xenophobia and discrimination provides a precise definition of discrimination that is in line with international conventions. By legal doctrine, all human rights recognised within international treaties that Uruguay has ratified become constitutional rights within the country. Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remains a significant issue.
    • Venezuela
      The Constitution of the Republic of Venezuela, adopted in 1999, upholds equal rights for men and women in all areas of daily life. It also prohibits all forms of discrimination. Article 88 recognises the economic and social value of domestic work.
    • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Middle East and North Africa

    • Mark Click to Access
    • Middle East and North Africa
      Gender discrimination in social institutions is very high across the 18 countries of the Middle East and North Africa. With the exception of Tunisia and Morocco, all the region’s countries ranked in the SIGI are in the bottom half of the distribution. Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the UAE, Iraq, Iran and Yemen figure in the bottom 20. Discrimination is particularly evident in civil liberties, family code and physical integrity.
    • Algeria
      The situation for women in Algeria is difficult, largely as a result of the country’s history and the influence of Islamist movements over the past 20 years. Conditions for women are closely linked to the provisions of the 1984 Family Code, based on Islamic law.
    • Bahrain
      The Constitution of 2002 provides equal rights to women and men of Bahrain and has improved the situation of women in many areas. In other ways, the situation of women continues to be affected by patriarchal norms and traditions. Women’s level of education is often high, but their employment opportunities are limited. Bahrain’s first report on the UN Millennium Development Goals identifies changing traditional views of the role of women – both in society and the workforce – as a main challenge to be addressed.
    • Egypt
      Factors such as religion, social class and rural or urban location all affect the situation of Egyptian women, but it is cultural traditions that most strongly shape their lives. The law is partly based on Sharia and does provide for equality between the sexes, however, differences between the sexes are still found.
    • Iran, Islamic Republic
      Iran is a theocratic republic; as such, the situation of women is very much affected by Islam and Sharia law. The Constitution supports equal rights to a large degree, but its enforcement is generally poor and discriminatory provisions still remain.
    • Iraq
      Iraq’s new Constitution (2005) states that all Iraqis are equal before the law and prohibits discrimination based on sex. It cites Islam as a basic source of legislation and forbids the passing of laws contradictory to its "established rulings". As a result, the situation of women in Iraq very much depends on the implementation of Islamic law.
    • Israel
      In Israel, the Women’s Equal Rights Law of 1951 guarantees the equal treatment of men and women. But the long-running conflict between religion and state often undermines legally established principles of gender equality. Secular principles govern much of public life, thereby granting women and men the same rights while also subjecting them to the same obligations. Matters related to personal law are administrated by the country’s religious courts – including Jewish rabbinic courts, Islamic Sharia courts, Christian courts and Druze courts. In many of these courts, patriarchal norms and traditions still prevail. 76% of Israel’s population is Jewish. Muslims make up the second largest group (16%), followed by Arab Christians (1.7%) and Druze (1.6%).
    • Jordan
      Jordan is a patriarchal society in which cultural traditions and societal norms continue to encourage discrimination against women. In recent years, the status of Jordanian women in society has improved somewha
    • Kuwait
      By global standards, Kuwait has been late to implement measures that grant women equal protection. Education and employment opportunities opened up for Kuwaiti women in the 1960s. Kuwait’s family law discriminates against women in the social sphere, as do customary traditions. However, unlike most of the countries of the Gulf region, Kuwaiti women have been able to vote and run for office since May 2005.
    • Lebanon
      Social institutions in Lebanon are complex and closely linked to religion. The country officially recognises a total of 18 religious groups. According to a report by Zaatari, family matters are governed by as many as 15 personal status codes.
    • Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
      Most national legislation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya supports equal rights for men and women, but many legal provisions that would ensure equality have yet to be effectively enforced. The social position of Libyan women is inferior to that of men, and deeply rooted patriarchal values and traditions still persist.
    • Morocco
      As a result of reform measures imposed by the king in 2004, the situation for women in Morocco has improved significantly. Even though applying the new legislation is taking time and progress is sometimes stalled by attitudes inherited from the past, Morocco can now be counted amongst North African countries with the most improved laws for the protection of women.
    • Oman
      The Constitution of Oman provides for the equal treatment of all its citizens, irrespective of sex. As the country has a predominantly Muslim population, Sharia is recognised as the source of all legislation. This can affect women’s status in a negative manner. It should also be noted that any protection offered by the law does not apply to the large share of noncitizens residing and working in the country, many of whom are women.
    • Saudi Arabia
      Religion affects all aspects of life in Saudi Arabia. The country’s Sunni Muslims – comprising about 90% of the population – are governed by very conservative interpretations of Islam. The country’s religious police often subject both women and men to harassment, torture (through it is officially outlawed), and physical punishment.
    • Syrian Arab Republic
      The Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic grants equal rights to all its citizens. Syrian women have seen their economic opportunities improve in recent years, but they still face various degrees of inequality in the social sphere.
    • Tunisia
      Tunisia is a unique example of successful gender equality-related reform in an Arab and Muslim country. Within a few months in 1956, the government changed the former family code and accelerated the enrolment of girls in primary and secondary schools. By the 1980s, enrolment rates for both girls and boys were very high. The 1956 reform, led by President Habib Bourguiba, banned polygamy and repudiation, promoted consensual marriage and introduced equal divorce proceedings. However, there remains a gap between laws and their enforcement, particularly in rural areas.
    • United Arab Emirates
      The Constitution of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) upholds the principle of equal treatment of all citizens, but does not specifically address gender-based discrimination. All legislation in the UAE is based on Islamic Sharia law. Several laws and national policies continue to restrict women to their traditional roles as wives and mothers.
    • Palestinian National Authority
      The West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are, in effect, a group of non-contiguous territories separated by Israeli checkpoints.
    • Yemen
      Inequality is widespread in Yemen, largely due to patriarchal traditions and religious beliefs. The population is predominantly Muslim and follows Islamic Sharia law. Yemen’s overall poverty also contributes to the difficult situation of women which include limited access to health care, economic opportunities and education. In fact, Yemen has one of the world’s largest gaps between net primary school attendance rates for girls and boys. Less than 30% of Yemeni women are economically active; the majority of women who do work are employed in the agricultural sector.
    • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts South Asia

    • Mark Click to Access
    • South Asia
      Gender discrimination in social institutions is very high across the seven countries of South Asia, making the region one of the worst performers in the SIGI ranking. The situation is particularly bad in Afghanistan, the lowest ranking country in the region and one of the bottom three performers overall. India and Pakistan are also in the bottom ten. The two biggest concerns for the region are son preference and family code.
    • Afghanistan
      Afghan women are among the most vulnerable in the world. Under the Taliban regime, women and girls were systematically discriminated against and marginalised, and their human rights were violated. Women and girls were also severely restricted in their access to education, health care facilities and employment.
    • Bangladesh
      Bangladesh is a highly patriarchal society and gender discrimination is evident across all levels. Women are dependent on men throughout their lives. The Constitution affirms gender equality, but state legislation and institutions frequently disregard women’s rights. Women and young girls are more disadvantaged than men in their access to education, health care and financial assets.
    • Bhutan
      Bhutan upholds the concept of gender equality. The status of women is largely influenced by the country’s Buddhist traditions and values, which view men and women as equals. Because of this general view of equality, however, the country has not yet established specific laws to protect against the discrimination of women, and some traditions and norms continue to limit women’s roles.
    • India
      Since independence, the government of India has promulgated many laws to protect women’s rights. In general, application of these laws is weak. An international study by Rhoodie goes so far as to state that India "is a good example of a country with an abyssal gap between policy and practice." India’s legal framework has less influence on women’s rights than do the nation’s religions. Some 80% of the population lives according to Hinduism and its customs and laws, while the Muslim population follows Sharia law.
    • Nepal
    • Pakistan
      The Constitution of Pakistan upholds the principles of equal rights and equal treatment of all persons. As a result of patriarchal traditions, women are subject to systematic subordination to men.
    • Sri Lanka
      Despite being subject to patriarchal values and social norms, Sri Lanka has achieved a great degree of gender equality. In the 1940s, the country established equal and free access to health and education services, an important factor in achieving gender equality in primary and secondary education. Today, women comprise the majority of university students, although they continue to face gender barriers in the labour market and in the political arena.
    • Add to Marked List
  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Sub-Saharan Africa

    • Mark Click to Access
    • Sub-Saharan Africa
      Gender discrimination in social institutions is very high in the 44 Sub-Saharan African countries. Of the ranked countries, all except six are in the bottom half of the SIGI. Just one – Mauritius – is in the top 20. Overall, the main
    • Angola
      The Constitution of Angola provides for equal rights for men and women. In addition, the government created a Secretariat of State for the Promotion and Development of Women in 1991. This secretariat was reinstituted as the Ministry of Family and Promotion of Women in 1997 and remains the primary government agency responsible for implementing policies to support equal rights for women.
    • Benin
      The Constitution of Benin prohibits discrimination based on race, sex and religion, and grants men and women equal economic and social rights as citizens. In 1992, Benin ratified CEDAW. A Code of Persons and Family, drafted by the government in 1990, was voted upon and promulgated by the president in 2004.
    • Botswana
      Officially, women in Botswana have the same civil rights as men. However, the country has a dual legal system in which common law and customary law exist side by side, as well as a long history of traditional laws, which are enforced by tribal structures and customary courts. As a result, societal discrimination against women persists in practice, particularly in rural areas and in terms of property rights and economic opportunities.
    • Burkina Faso
      In Burkina Faso, the government has taken steps to improve women’s rights by enacting new legislation. However in many situations, both the Family Code and the Penal Code are disregarded by society and by the authorities.
    • Burundi
      Article 17 of Burundi’s Constitutional Act of Transition establishes the equality of men and women before the law. However, the government often falls short of effectively implementing the Act’s provisions. Burundi is a traditional society, with strong patriarchal and patrilineal elements. Women have more duties than rights, and must submit to the customs and practices governing the relation between men and women.
    • Cameroon
      Cameroon’s Constitution upholds the principle of gender equality. However, the country has a complex legal system comprising a mix of Napoleonic Code and common law, as well as customary and written law. This structure is often an obstacle to gender equality. Local traditions also remain very strong, and have negative effects on the situation of Cameroonian women.
    • Central African Republic
      The 1994 Constitution of the Central African Republic guarantees equal rights to men and women in all domains of society. Due to chronic poverty and a lack of funding, the Central African Republic government admits that it has been unable to meet its obligation regarding general human rights. Moreover, local traditions that are unfavourable to women remain strong amidst the predominantly rural population.
    • Chad
      The population in Chad is characterised by a distinct division between ethnic groups who inhabit the north and those who live in the south, a fact that is relevant to certain gender issues. The north is home to the Arab, Peul and Hausa ethnic groups, who are Muslims and often livestock farmers; collectively, they represent half of the population. In the south, the dominant groups include Animists, who make up 39% of the population, and Christians, who make up 11%. The country’s largest ethnic group is the Saras, who live off agriculture.
    • Congo
      The Republic of Congo’s Constitution of 8 December 1963 proclaims equality before the law for all citizens and upholds the full legal capacity of women, irrespective of their marital status. Nevertheless, discriminatory provisions persist in the laws governing inheritance, marriage and parental authority. The fact that the Republic of Congo is based on a dual legal system, with a French-inspired form of modern law super-imposed upon customary laws, also creates challenges for Congolese women.
    • Congo, Democratic Republic of
      The Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo DR) upholds the principle of equality between men and women. However, certain provisions of Congolese law still discriminate against women, particularly in the areas of ownership rights and women’s lack of any capacity to sign legal contracts. The ongoing conflict with high levels of sexual violence has also had a major impact on women and girls.
    • Côte d'Ivoire
      The Constitution of Côte d’Ivoire prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, and government policy encourages full participation by women in social and economic life. Nevertheless, Ivorian women remain confined to traditional roles, especially in rural areas.
    • Equatorial Guinea
      The Constitution of Equatorial Guinea provides for equal rights for men and women. The country has a dual legal system based on both civil law and customary law, which creates obstacles to the advancement of women’s place in society. National legislation contains non-discrimination provisions but these laws are rarely enforced.
    • Eritrea
      Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991, after 30 years of war. During the conflict, the central leadership of the country (the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front) made efforts to introduce the National Democratic Program, a platform to challenge gender inequality. Eritrea’s Constitution and Transitional Civil Code of Eritrea (TCE) now prohibit discrimination against women, however, as yet, the laws are not always fully implemented due to lack of capacity in the country’s legal system.
    • Ethiopia
      Despite recently introducing policy instruments and legislative commitments designed to serve women’s interests, Ethiopia remains one of Africa’s most tradition-bound societies. A vast majority of Ethiopian women, particularly in rural areas, live in a state of poverty and dependence, and they rarely benefit directly from development initiatives. Following traditional socio-cultural installations and practices, women in Ethiopia are considered to be subordinate to men.
    • Gabon
      The Constitution in Gabon recognises men and women as equals before the law. However, discriminatory legal provisions within both the Civil and Penal Codes continue to constrain the status of women, particularly within the context of marriage and family relations. Social attitudes and cultural practices also represent genuine obstacles to the advancement of women.
    • Gambia
      Under the 1997 Constitution, women in the Gambia are accorded equal rights with men. Yet they continue to experience discrimination and inequality, largely because the patriarchal nature of Gambian society reinforces traditional roles of women. In addition, the country has a dual legal system that combines civil law (inspired by the British system) and Islamic law. Provisions under the latter law are generally viewed to be discriminatory towards women, particularly in relation to marriage, divorce and inheritance.
    • Ghana
      Ghana’s 1992 Constitution officially bans all cruel and inhumane aspects of cultural and traditional norms. The Criminal Code imposes sanctions with respect to defilement, forced marriages, customary servitude, female genital mutilation, abuse of widowhood rites and the practice of banishment of "witches".
    • Guinea
      The Constitution of Guinea upholds equality between men and women as a fundamental right, but many forms of discrimination remain evident. Guinean women are forced into polygamous marriages and do not have equal rights under divorce laws. Female genital mutilation remains widely practised. Discrimination is most prevalent in rural areas, where women do not have access to land and have difficulty accessing farming equipment and other resources.
    • Guinea-Bissau
      The Constitution and legislation of Guinea-Bissau prohibit all forms of discrimination on the grounds of gender, race or religion. In practice, the government is not in a position to enforce the principle of non-discrimination, and violence and discrimination against women remain serious problems. Traditionally, women do most of the agricultural work, but in certain ethnic groups, they do not have access to land or property.
    • Kenya
      Kenya is characterised by the co-existence of several institutional frameworks. Unofficial "family codes" and ownership rights vary substantially between three main groups: the Muslim population, traditional society and modern society. In some cases, a given couple may belong to two of these societies. For example, a customary marriage may be followed by a statutory marriage, thereby creating conflicts in relation to the rights and obligations of each spouse. Moreover, some judges do not respect modern institutions, which impacts negatively on the situation of women.
    • Lesotho
      The Kingdom of Lesotho is an enclave within South Africa. Its Constitution, amended in 1993, grants civil and political rights to all individuals but also recognises customary law and, thus, continues to uphold discrimination in some areas. In fact, Lesotho has a dual legal system, incorporating both civil and customary law.
    • Liberia
      In 2005, Liberia became the first African country to elect a woman, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, as president. The Constitution of Liberia prohibits discrimination. In 2001, the government created a Ministry for Gender and Development and in 2006 published a National Gender-Based Violence Plan of Action. In 2009 the government also published "The Liberia National Action Plan for the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325". Liberia is one of the first African countries to write this four year plan to advance women’s equality and mainstream gender in the country. Currently, the position of women in Liberia varies according to region, ethnic group and religion. Customary laws are a major contributing factor to inequality: women who are married according to these laws are considered to be legal minors. The civil war and widespread sexual violence that ravaged Liberia has also had grave consequences for women.
    • Madagascar
      The Constitution of Madagascar prohibits any discrimination on grounds of gender and grants women the same legal status as men. Though, reportedly, discrimination still exists in relation to inheriting land and property. Early marriage is common and there is widespread violence against women.
    • Malawi
      The Constitution of Malawi upholds the principle of equal rights for men. After the Constitution was adopted in 1994, the government established a Law Commission to assess whether existing legislation was compatible with the aims of the Constitution. Malawi has been profoundly modernised since it embraced democracy in 1994, yet it remains a very traditional society. There is a wide discrepancy between the declarations in the Constitution and the actual relationship between men and women, and customary law acts as a norm in the socialisation process. The country’s media contributes to the wide-ranging debate on these questions.
    • Mali
      Women’s rights are very limited in Mali, where tradition dominates daily life. Nearly all Malian women have been subjected to female genital mutilation, violence against women is widely accepted and many girls marry at a very young age.
    • Mauritania
      In general, the rights of women in Mauritania are not sufficiently protected. The country is home to two main ethnic communities: the majority Moors (Arabs and Berbers) and a large minority of Blacks. Nearly all the inhabitants of Mauritania are Muslim, but tensions exist between the two communities. Moreover, each group has different traditions that affect the condition of women in different areas of daily life. Thus, it is helpful to examine the position of women according to their ethnic origin.
    • Mauritius
      In 1995, the Constitution of Mauritius was amended to include gender in the definition of discrimination. In addition, the government adopted in 2000 a law against sexual discrimination. All citizens are equal under Mauritian legislation, but the society remains firmly rooted in traditional practices.
    • Mozambique
      The 1999 Constitution of Mozambique upholds the principle of equality between men and women in every aspect of the country’s economic, social, political and cultural life. The state endeavours to promote the emancipation of women and improve their situation. Customary laws are still discriminatory, however, particularly with regard to family relations and inheritance. The government has established a legal reform commission to review discriminatory legislation.
    • Namibia
      The Constitution of Namibia prohibits gender-based discrimination, but men still dominate in the family domain. Inequalities in the country are aggravated by religious beliefs, cultural practices and persistent legal discrimination in both civil and customary (traditional) law.
    • Niger
      Niger’s living standards are among the lowest in the world and women live under particularly harsh conditions. Traditions exert a heavy influence and Nigerien women have little legal protection. The lack of social institutions leaves all women highly vulnerable.
    • Nigeria
      The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, but customary and religious laws continue to restrict women’s rights. As Nigeria is a federal republic, each state has the authority to draft its own legislation. The combination of federation and a tripartite system of civil, customary and religious law makes it very difficult to harmonise legislation and remove discriminatory measures. Moreover, certain states in the north follow Islamic law, which is unfavourable to women. The government has established a National Committee on the Reform of Discriminatory Laws against Women, which has drafted a decree for the abolition of all forms of discrimination against women. The decree is under discussion in the National Assembly.
    • Rwanda
      The 2003 Constitution of Rwanda prohibits gender-based discrimination, but women in the country continue to face social inequalities. The 1992 Family Code improved the legal position of women in regard to marriage, divorce and child custody. In September 2008, Rwanda became the first country to have more female members of Parliament (56%) than male.
    • Senegal
      The situation of women in Senegal has improved since the country became independent in 1960. Being a former colony, Senegal’s judicial system and Civil Codes are heavily influenced by those in France. A wide gap is evident between the situation of women in urban areas, where the law is generally respected, and those in rural areas still dominated by tradition.
    • Sierra Leone
      The Constitution of Sierra Leone provides for equal rights for men and women, but the principle of non-discrimination does not apply in all areas. In February 2007, the government established a commission to review the Constitution and eliminate all discriminatory measures.
    • Somalia
      Due to a series of civil wars (the most recent of which began in 1991 and is ongoing), the country has operated without a central government for almost ten years. As a consequence, customary practices have increasingly taken the place of a non-existent legal system. Justice is perceived and applied differently depending on the region, and is based on a combination of systems that includes tribal rules, Islamic law, and the Penal Code that existed before 1991. Overall, women’s rights are restricted by the fact that they live in a highly patriarchal system.
    • South Africa
      South Africa is a unique case in sub-Saharan Africa: it is the only country in which a significant proportion of the population (22%) is not of African origin. The end of Apartheid (in 1993) led to the introduction of legislation supporting women but there is still significant gender and race-based discrimination. To date, civil law is often ineffective in replacing the prevailing customary law, particularly in rural areas.
    • Sudan
      The situation of women in Sudan is largely influenced by Islamic traditions, which have been a major force in the country since the 15th century. Muslims comprise about 80% of the total population.
    • Swaziland
      The Constitution of Swaziland, adopted in February 2006, grants the same legal rights to men and women, but tradition continues to limit women to inferior roles. Legislation in Swaziland is based on a dual system of traditional and civil law. Several discriminatory laws are still in force, having not yet been aligned with the anti-discrimination measures in the Constitution.
    • Tanzania
      The Constitution of Tanzania prohibits gender-based discrimination but the country’s legislation has yet to be adjusted to support this principle. In general, legal protection for women remains limited, in part because Tanzania’s judicial authorities take into account both customary and Islamic laws.
    • Togo
      In 2001, the government of Togo established an inter-ministerial commission to assess the extent to which women’s rights were being respected in the country. The commission conducted a national survey and is expected to put forward amendments to the personal and family code.
    • Uganda
      The Constitution of Uganda includes anti-discriminatory provisions and condemns any custom that contradicts human rights. But discrimination against women is rife and the situation of Ugandan women is further aggravated by deeply rooted patriarchal tradition and years of armed conflict. The government has enacted new laws to improve the situation of women, but their implementation has been obstructed by some reticent communities.
    • Zambia
      Zambia is one of the most urbanised countries in Africa and has achieved a reasonable level of democracy. These factors should benefit women, yet the overall situation in regard to gender equality remains difficult. Tradition imposes many restrictions on women, the effects of which are more pronounced in rural communities than in urban areas.
    • Zimbabwe
      Zimbabwe’s recent history has been marked by a sluggish economy resulting largely from ineffective government policies. The economic decline has led to increased poverty for the population as a whole, with women being particularly hard hit.
    • Add to Marked List
Visit the OECD web site