The SIGI 2023 profile for Myanmar provides a comprehensive overview of the state of gender equality in the country, as measured by the OECD’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI).1 The fifth edition of the SIGI, released in 2023, assesses 140 countries based on the level of gender-based discrimination in their social institutions. These discriminatory social institutions encompass both formal and informal laws, as well as social norms and practices that restrict women’s and girls’ access to rights, justice, empowerment opportunities and resources, thereby undermining their agency and authority.

In 2023, Myanmar obtained a SIGI score of 47, denoting high levels of discrimination, compared to an average score of 39 in Southeast Asia, denoting medium levels of discrimination, and a world average score of 29.2 The country obtained a score of 63 in the “Discrimination in the family” dimension, followed by “Restricted physical integrity” (55), “Restricted access to productive and financial resources” (34) and “Restricted civil liberties” (33).

The legal system in Myanmar is a mixed system based on common law – inherited from the British colonisation – customary law and post-independence Burmese legislation (Proelium Law LLP, n.d.[2]). Section 198 of the Constitution (Republic of the Union of Myanmar, 2008[3]), as amended, provides that the Constitution prevails over any other law that may be inconsistent with any of its provisions. In addition, Section 13(1) of the Burma Laws Act (Government of Burma, 1898[4]) recognises the different religions of the country and provides that for succession, inheritance or marriage matters, the relevant religious laws apply – such as Buddhists, Christians, Muslims or Hindus.3

Section 348 of the Constitution (Republic of the Union of Myanmar, 2008[3]) recognises and prohibits multiple and intersectional discrimination – which constitutes an essential element to enhance gender equality. Myanmar ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1997, but holds reservations on Article 29 regarding the inter-State dispute procedure (United Nations, 1979[5]; United Nations, 2023[6]). Gender-disaggregated, gender-relevant and intersectional data are essential to better identify policy areas that have strong linkages with gender. In Myanmar, there are no applicable legal provisions regulating the production and dissemination of gender statistics.

The law in Myanmar grants women the same rights as men in several spheres of their lives, although specific legislations may apply to distinct groups of the population, undermining certain women’s rights. The law notably guarantees women and men equal rights to own and use financial assets. Likewise, Myanmar has a relatively strong legal framework that guarantees women and men equal rights terms of citizenship rights and access to justice. Finally, in 2017, the legislation set the minimum legal age of marriage at 18 years. These legal advances have translated into some modest practical gains. Girl child marriage has decreased to reach 13%, and the share of women having experienced domestic violence during the last 12 months has fallen to 9%. Although women’s representation in economic spheres has not attained parity yet, it is relatively high. In 2023, 36% of managers were women and 41% of companies were headed by women.

Pursuant to Section 13(1) of the Burma Laws Act (Government of Burma, 1898[4]), marriage and family affairs – including divorce, inheritance and the administration of assets within the family – are regulated by religious laws, which establish different rules for women depending on their faith or ethnicity. These coexisting rules regulating family matters weaken the legislation and introduce distinct provisions under which women may not necessarily have the same rights as men. Legal loopholes and discriminatory provisions in the Penal Code also pose a threat to women’s physical integrity. Most notably, the law fails to criminalise domestic violence, does not prohibit marital rape, and only allows abortion if it is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.

Discriminatory social norms prevail in Myanmar when it comes to expected gender roles in society. For example, 56% of the population thinks that if a woman earns more than her husband, it is almost certain to cause problems, and 55% agrees that children will suffer if the mother has a paid job outside the home. These norms on social roles are also present in the public sphere – 70% of the country’s population believes that men make better political leaders than women. This is reflected in practice, with women accounting for only 17% of the members of parliament, compared to an average of 22% in Southeast Asia and a world average of 27%.


[4] Government of Burma (1898), Burma Laws Act (India Act XIII), Burma Code, Vol. 1..

[8] Moe, D. (2019), “Christianity as a Majority Religion of the Ethnic Minorities in Myanmar: Exploring Triple Dialogue in the Currents of World Christianity”, The Expository Times, Vol. 131/2, pp. 45-64,

[1] OECD (2023), “Social Institutions and Gender Index (Edition 2023)”, OECD International Development Statistics (database), (accessed on 10 January 2024).

[7] OECD Development Centre/OECD (2023), “Gender, Institutions and Development (Edition 2023)”, OECD International Development Statistics (database), (accessed on 11 January 2024).

[2] Proelium Law LLP (n.d.), Myanmar Legal Profile, (accessed on 1 October 2023).

[3] Republic of the Union of Myanmar (2008), Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

[6] United Nations (2023), Status of Treaties: Chapter IV - 8. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,

[5] United Nations (1979), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,


← 1. The full SIGI Country Profile for Myanmar is available at: OECD Development Centre (2023), “Myanmar SIGI Country Profile”, SIGI 2023 Country Profiles, OECD,

← 2. SIGI scores range from 0 to 100, with 0 indicating no discrimination and 100 indicating absolute discrimination. Levels of discrimination in the SIGI and its dimensions are assessed based on scores as follow: very low [0-20]; low [20-30]; medium [30-40]; high [40-50]; and very high [50-100].

← 3. The majority of the Burmese population is Buddhist. Among ethnic minorities, such as the Kachins, Chins or Karens, Christianity is the main religion. See (Moe, 2019[8]).

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