The SIGI 2023 profile for Singapore 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, Singapore obtained a SIGI score of 45, 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 53 in the “Restricted civil liberties” dimension, followed by “Restricted physical integrity” (46), “Restricted access to productive and financial resources” (41) and “Discrimination in the family” (39).

The legal system of Singapore is based on common law, but Article 153 of the Constitution (Republic of Singapore, 1965[2]), as amended, provides that the legislature shall make provisions to regulate Muslims’ religious affairs. Sharia law (also known as Syariah in Singapore) is administered by the Administration of Muslim Law Act (or AMLA). Section 3 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Republic of Singapore, 1966[3]), as amended, establishes the Majlis Ugama Islam, also known as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, to advise the President on matters relating to the Muslim religion and entrusts it with the function of administering Muslim law in specific personal legal matters governing marriages, divorces, annulment of marriages, judicial separations, among others. Moreover, Article 2 of the Constitution addresses the presence of customary law in the country and Article 152 stipulates the responsibility of the government on caring for the interests of the racial and religious minorities. Article 152 specifically recognises the special position of the Malays, the indigenous people of Singapore, as well as the State’s responsibility to protect and support their political, educational, religious, economic, social, and cultural interests.

Articles 12 and 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Singapore recognises and prohibits multiple and intersectional discrimination – which constitutes an essential element to enhance gender equality. Singapore ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1995 but expresses reservations on Articles 2(a) to 2(f), 16(1)(a), 16(1)(c), 16(1)(h), 16(2) and 29(1) on the basis that compliance with these provisions would be contrary to Singapore’s religious or personal laws (United Nations, 1979[4]; United Nations, 2023[5]). Specifically, Article 2 covers the incorporation of the principle of equality between men and women in the Constitution and other appropriate legislations, as well as the elimination of any existing legal discrimination, and Article 16 covers equality in marriage and family life. Moreover, Singapore expresses reservations on Article 11, on eliminating discrimination against women in the field of employment, considering it unnecessary for the minority of women who do not fall within the ambit of Singapore’s employment legislation.

Gender-disaggregated, gender-relevant and intersectional data and indicators are essential to better identify policy areas that have strong linkages with gender. In Singapore, there are no applicable legal provisions regulating the production and dissemination of gender statistics.

The law in Singapore generally grants women the same rights as men, although specific legislations may apply to distinct groups of the population, undermining certain women’s rights (see below). The law notably guarantees women and men equal rights to own and use financial assets, which translates into an extremely high financial inclusion of both men and women. Likewise, Singapore has a strong legal framework that guarantees women and men equal rights in terms of access to justice and freedom of movement. Additionally, abortion is legal and accessible without restriction with the written consent of the pregnant woman. Concrete practical gains have also been made. Girl child marriage has been virtually eliminated, and the share of women who have experienced domestic violence during the last 12 months has fallen to 2%. Although women’s representation in economic and political spheres has not attained parity yet, it has increased. In 2023, 37% of managers and 29% of the members of parliament were women.

Discriminatory social institutions continue to undermine women’s rights and opportunities in certain spheres of their lives. In Singapore, distinct legislations regulating family and marriage matters – including divorce, inheritance or the administration of assets within the household – apply to different groups of the population, with varying levels of gender-based discrimination. For instance, the Administration of Muslim Laws Act contains discriminatory provisions that restrict Muslim women’s rights to file for divorce and to inherit on equal grounds as men. Legal loopholes also put women’s physical integrity and reproductive rights at risk. For instance, female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) is not prohibited and the legal framework on violence against women does not comprehensively protect women and girls, failing to criminalise marital rape or to include sexual and economic abuse in the definition of domestic violence. Moreover, the law does not prohibit sex-based discrimination in employment and fails to mandate equal remuneration for equal work nor equal remuneration for work of equal value. Finally, rules to retain and confer citizenship through marriage differ for married men and women.


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

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

[3] Republic of Singapore (1966), Administration of Muslim Law Act 1966.

[2] Republic of Singapore (1965), Constitution of the Republic of Singapore.

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

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


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

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