Gender Equality in Croatia

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Flag of Croatia
Population (in Mil.) 4.27
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 56.16
Sex Ratio (m/f) 0.93
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.081081081
Fertility Rate 1.43
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.7
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 49.2
Women in Parliament (in %) 23.8
Human Development Index 47/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index /86
Gender Inequality Index 47/186
Gender Equity Index 37/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 44/128
Global Gender Gap Index 49/68
More information on variables

Social Institutions

Croatia held its first multiparty elections in 1990 as part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia[1] and then it gained its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. However, fighting continued for the next four years, until all Serb armies finally left the country.[2] Despite significant progress on the economic front, organised crime and mafia-linked violence continue to be a major concern in the country.[3] With regards to respect towards minorities, there has been significant progress since 1999, especially via the media. At the end of 2009, there were about 80,000 Croatian Serbs that remained registered as refugees in the region, and the Roma population also continues to face discrimination.[4] Croatia is classed by the World Bank as a high income country.[5]

Men and women in Croatia are equal before the law in all respects.[6] The constitution of Croatia was amended in 2001 to include gender equality[7] among the highest values of the constitutional order.[8] Furthermore, the Parliament has enacted several laws to protect women against discrimination and effectively set out a policy of equal opportunities for men and women.[9] However, systematic implementation of these laws is weak. For example, women in Croatia are paid significantly less than men with similar qualifications.[10] Furthermore, concerns remain regarding violence against women, but the government is working to reduce its prevalence throughout the country.[11]

Croatia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1992, and the Optional Protocol on violence against women in 2001.[12] The country is a member of the Council of Europe and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1997.[13]

The country’s Human Development Index (HDI) score is 0.796, placing it in 46th place out of a total of 187 countries.[14] The Gender Inequality Index is 0.170, placing it at 27 out of 146 countries.[15] Croatia’s 2011 Global Gender Gap Index ranking is 0.701, placing it in 50th place (out of 135 countries).[16]

Discriminatory Family Code

The minimum legal age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women, and both spouses must give their free consent before being married. Under exceptional circumstances, the courts can authorise marriage from the age of 16 years.[17] Statistics show that the average age of marriage has been increasing since 1980; as of 2000 it had risen to 25.1 years.[18] In fact, early marriage appears to be infrequent: a 2004 United Nations report estimated that only 2% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed.[19] Weddings can be civil or religious ceremonies, and both have the same legal recognition.[20]

The Criminal Code of Croatia prohibits bigamy.[21] Under Croatia’s marriage laws, mothers and fathers share parental authority and must mutually support each other.[22] They have equal rights in making family decisions, including where to live and work, and equal responsibility for educating their children.[23] In the event of divorce, parents remain equally responsible for raising their children.[24] The law helps to protect divorced women by stipulating that each spouse automatically receives half the property acquired during the marriage.[25]

Croatian women and men have the same inheritance rights.[26]

Restricted Physical Integrity

Croatia recently developed a legal framework to penalise domestic violence notably with the adoption of the Act on Protection against Family Violence in 2003 and of a series of guidelines and rules of procedure to implement it.[27] A 2000 amendment to the Criminal Code restored domestic violence as a category to the list of crimes that can be prosecuted automatically by the State Attorney without the victim first filing a complaint.[28] According to a legal definition established in 1999, the crime is punishable by three months to three years in prison.[29] Several related measures have also been implemented, including better protection for the victim and psycho-social rehabilitation for the perpetrator, who is forbidden to approach the victim.[30] Before these laws were passed, police had no legal authority on which to arrest offenders and their intervention was limited to protecting victims.[31] However there are still issues with police who fail to pursue cases aggressively unless evidence of serious bodily harm is present. NGO groups note that Croatia has a small number of shelters for victims of domestic violence compared to demand, and that no broad-based network of support exists. Further, domestic violence is also believed to be underreported[32]; legal fees can be expensive for court representation for women who wish to pursue their cases.[33]

Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime in Croatia, and is punishable by three to ten years in prison; the sentence increases to 15 years if the victim is a minor or if she dies.[34] NGOs in Croatia say many women who are subjected to rape or other forms of sexual violence abandon the idea of pressing charges for fear of social stigma or because they feel the police, health and judicial authorities lack experience in dealing with such cases. These NGOs also criticise some courts for passing sentences that are too lenient.[35] Sexual harassment, including in the workplace, is prohibited by law in Croatia.[36]

Like in the other conflicts linked to the breakup of former Yugoslavia, Croatia faced serious human rights violations such as widespread use of sexual violence against both genders to terrorise and displace populations.[37] Finally, trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution continues to be a problem and Croatia is a transit country for women trafficked to Western Europe.[38] There is no evidence to suggest that female genital mutilation is practised in Croatia.

In terms of reproductive rights, although contraceptives are widely available in Croatia, to date there are no reliable statistics on contraceptive usage.[39] There are no legal restrictions with regards to abortion in Croatia.[40]

Son Bias

The 2010 female-to-male ratio for primary school enrollment is 0.99 and for secondary school enrollment it is 1.02.[41] Croatia has thus largely achieved parity, however there is persistent discrimination in access to education for sub-national populations, especially between ethnic groups: the Roma children are excluded from the school system and ethnic Serbs do not benefit from the same level of access or quality of education as Croatians.[42]

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.93.[43]

There is no evidence to suggest that Croatia is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

Restricted Resources and Entitlements

There are no restrictions on their access to land and their access to property other than land. Furthermore, men and women have the same rights to enter into contracts. Married women retain full ownership of property they acquired before marriage or received through inheritance or as a gift, and have the right to manage this property independently.[44]

Women in Croatia have access to bank loans on the same terms as men.[45]

Restricted Civil Liberties

There are no reported restrictions on their freedom of movement.[46] Women and men have equal rights regarding choice of permanent residence.[47]

Freedom of expression and the press is protected under the Croatian Constitution, but in practice, pressure from political interests makes it difficult for prominent journalists to thrive.[48] The constitution and law also provide for freedom of religion, association and assembly, and the government generally respects this right in practice.[49]

Following elections in November 2007, 36 women hold (23.5 %) seats in Croatia’s unicameral national parliament are held by women.[50] Further, women must represent at least 40% of candidate lists for each political party at all levels, although in practice it remains unclear whether the prescribed fines are enough to deter violations.[51] Women have attained higher political office in Croatia, including the current prime minister and the President of the Constitutional Court, and several members of the Cabinet and Supreme Court.

Pregnant women in Croatia are entitled to 45 days of paid maternity leave before the birth of a child, with benefits paid at 100% of wages to that point, and at a fixed sum thereafter up to one year after the birth of the child. Croatian women also have extensive protections against unjust termination, discrimination, and unhealthy or dangerous work.[52]


  1. Freedom House (2010) Freedom in the World Country Reports: Croatia, online edition, (accessed 19 October 2011)
  2. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2011) World Factbook: Croatia, online edition, (accessed 19 October 2011)
  3. BBC News (2011), Croatia country profile, (accessed 19 October 2011)
  4. Freedom House (2010)
  5. World Bank (n.d.) Data: Croatia, (accessed 19 October 2011)
  6. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2003), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Croatia, Combined Second and Third Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW, New York, NY p. 56.
  7. Article 3 of the Constitution of The Republic of Croatia
  8. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (2005) ‘Consideration of reports submitted by States Parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women Combined initial, second and third periodic report of States Parties Croatia, CEDAW/C/TJK/1-3, CEDAW, New York
  9. Republic of Croatian Gender Equality Act of July 2003; The General Law on Elimination of Discrimination, came into force January 2009
  10. Freedom House (2010)
  11. CEDAW (2005), p 2.
  12. United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC) (2010): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. CEDAW: (accessed 19 October 2011); Optional Protocol: (accessed 19 October 2011)
  13. information: Croatia, (accessed 19 October 2011)
  14. United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at (accessed 29 February 2012), p.127
  15. United Nations Development Programme (2011) p.139
  16. World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at (accessed 2 March 2012)
  17. Article 26 of the Family Law, adopted July 2003; CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) (1995), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Croatia, Initial Periodic Report of States Parties, CEDAW, New York, NY, p. 84; CEDAW 2003, p. 57.
  18. CEDAW (2003), p. 57.
  19. UN (United Nations) (2004), World Fertility Report 2003, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY.
  20. CEDAW (2003), pp. 56-57.
  21. Article 206, Criminal Code of Croatia.
  22. Article 32 of the Family Law; CEDAW (2003), pp. 57-58.
  23. Articles 32-24 of the Family Law; CEDAW (2003), pp. 57-59.
  24. CEDAW (2003), p. 58.
  25. Article 248 of the Family Law; CEDAW (2003), p. 59,
  26. Article 252 of the Family Law’ CEDAW (2003), p. 59.
  27. United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (2009) The United Nations Secretary-General’s database on violence against women, Croatia Country page, (accessed June 2010)
  28. ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council) (2003), Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women: Addendum 1: International, regional and national development in the area of violence against women, 1994-2003, E/CN.4//2003/75/Add.1, New York, NY pp. 351-352.
  29. Article 215.a of the Criminal Code as amended in 2000; CEDAW 2003, pp. 8-9.
  30. Article 71 of the Criminal Code; Article 90 of the Criminal Procedure Act as amended by the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act, adopted May 2002; CEDAW 2003, pp. 9-10.
  31. CEDAW (2003), p. 12.
  32. Freedom House (2010)
  33. B.a.Be. (Be active. Be emancipated), (2004), NGO Report to Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the Occasion of Second and Third Report of Republic of Croatia, B.a.Be: Zagreb, Croatia, NGO Report to Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the Occasion of Second and Third Report of Republic of Croatia, pp. 6-9.
  34. U.S. State Department (2010), 2009 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Croatia; CEDAW (2003), p. 8.
  35. Women’s Human Rights Group (2004), NGO Report To Committee of Discrimination against Women on the Occasion of Second and Third Report of Republic of Croatia, pp. 7-8; State Dept. 2010; ECOSOC (2003), pp. 353-354.
  36. Law on Gender Equality; CEDAW (2003), p. 11; ECOSOC (2003), p. 352.
  37. Bastick, M., Grimm, K. and Kunz, R. (2007), Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Global Overview and Implications for the Security Sector, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Geneva, Switzerland, p.119: (accessed 19 October 2011)
  38. Freedom House (2010)
  39. State Dept. 2010.
  40. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2011), World Abortion Policies 2011, available online: (accessed 19 October 2011)
  41. World Economic Forum (2010) ‘The Global Gender Gap Report’, (accessed 20 October 2011)
  42. UNICEF (n.d.), ‘Country profile: Education in Croatia’, available online, (accessed 20 October 2011)
  43. Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at, accessed 29 February 2012.
  44. Article 249 of the Family Law; CEDAW (2003), pp. 56, 59.
  45. CEDAW (2003), pp. 54-55.
  46. US Department of State (2010a) ‘2010 Country Reports on Human Rights: Croatia’, (accessed 19 October 2011)
  47. CEDAW (2003), p. 56
  48. Freedom House (2010)
  49. US Department of State (2010)
  50. CBS (Central Bureau of Statistics, Republic of Croatia) (2008), Women and Men in Croatia 2008, CBS; Zagreb, Croatia, p. 54; ILO (International Labour Organization) (2009), Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, ILO, Geneva, Switzerland (accessed 16 April 2010), Women in Parliament: All Countries on National Parliaments; State Dept. 2010.
  51. Freedom House (2010)
  52. ILO (International Labour Organization) (2009), Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, ILO, Geneva, Switzerland (accessed 16 April 2010); Social Security Administration (SSA) (2008), Social Security Programs Throughout the World: Europe, 2008, pp. 63-64.

The Women, Business and the Law

Where are laws equal for men and women?  

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on Croatia, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Croatia


The FAO Gender and Land Rights Database

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The FAO Gender and Land Rights Database contains country level information on social, economic, political and cultural issues related to the gender inequalities embedded in those rights. Disparity on land access is one of the major causes for social and gender inequalities in rural areas, and it jeopardizes, as a consequence, rural food security as well as the wellbeing of individuals and families.

Six categories

The Database offers information on the 6 following Categories:

  • National legal frame
  • International treaties and conventions
  • Customary law 
  • Land tenure and related Institutions
  • Civil society organizations
  • Selected Land Related Statistics

For detailed information on Croatia, please visit the report on Croatia in the FAO Gender and Land Rights Database.


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