Gender Equality in Ivory Coast

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Flag of Ivory_Coast
Population (in Mil.) 21.10
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 27.04
Sex Ratio (m/f) 1.03
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.040816327
Fertility Rate 3.92
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.48
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 8.9
Women in Parliament (in %) 10.4
Human Development Index 168/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index 61/86
Gender Inequality Index 168/186
Gender Equity Index 148/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 121/128
Global Gender Gap Index /68
More information on variables

Social Institutions

Discrimination on the basis of gender is prohibited in Ivory Coast by Constitution and national law. In addition to this Cote D'Ivoire ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of any Form of Discrimination against Women  in 1995, the convention's terms are rarely applied, as the national legal framework has not yet been harmonized with the convention.  The government also encourages women's full participation in social and economic life. In practice, however, traditional laws prevail in different spheres and, although they have no real binding power today, they still justify the existence of customs that often discriminate against women.

Family Code

Only marriages that are performed by a registry are legal. The law prohibits the payment and the acceptance of a bride-price. Husbands are regarded as the head of the household. Concerning early marriage, 44% of women between 25 and 29 were married before 18. According to the 1994 DHS women in Côte d’Ivoire, among women aged 25 to 49 participating in the survey, one out of two had already been married, on average by the age of 18. The percentage of women who are already married at 15 is quite high (15%). Despite the fact that the law prohibits the marriage of men under the age of 20, women under the age of 18, and persons under the age of 21 without the consent of their parents.

However, traditional marriages are commonly performed with girls as young as 14 in conservative communities in the north. The law specifically penalizes anyone who forces a minor under 18 years of age to enter a religious or customary matrimonial union. The age of first marriage seems to have increased in the last years.

Polygamy was abolished by the civil code in 1964 and is punishable by a fine of 50 000 to 500 000 CFA francs (US $79.59 to $795.54) or imprisonment of between six months and three years. However, it is reported to occur in some regions. According to DHS estimation (1998), 34.8% of women lived in a polygamous marriage. Under transitional provisions, the law recognizes polygamous marriages that were entered into prior to 1964. Concerning parental authority, as husbands are regarded as the head of household,(art 58) they have paternal rights over the children. The husband also has the right to chooses the family residence (art. 60), as well as to administer and dispose of marital property (art. 81)

The Marriage Act states that: “wives must contribute together with their husband toward ensuring the family’s moral and material guidance”. In case of divorce, the child custody is generally awarded to the spouse who obtained the divorce.
A divorced woman cannot remarry during a period of 300 days from the date the divorce is pronounced (arts. 25 and 26). A woman can be punished for adultery wherever the offence is committed, while the man is only punished in the case of habitual adultery or adultery that takes place in the marital home (Criminal Code, art. 391).

According to the Law on Succession 1964 (n° 64-374), “property is passed to the parents and his spouse, in that order”. Concerning inheritance rights, in the case of a spouse’s death, the household common property is divided according to the marriage act. The surviving spouse ranks fifth among those eligible to inherit, and excluded from inheritance if there are children because the children get this share in that case. Children and their descendants can inherit from parents, grandparents or other relatives regardless of gender. However, rural communities tend to apply their own customs despite the existence of the inheritance law. If the persons involved take their dispute to the court, however, the courts will base their ruling upon civil law.

Physical Integrity

Côte d’Ivoire has one of the highest prevalence of Female genital mutilation in West Africa, ranking 5th place in the sub region, after Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. According to the preliminary results of the MICS1 2006, nearly 40% of women have undergone FGM/C in the country. The prevalence is particularly high in the North (87,8%), North-West (87,9%) and West (73,3%).

The practice of female genital mutilation is common, especially among the rural population in the North and in the West. According to the WHO and the Ivorian Association for the Defense of Women, as many as 60% of women have undergone FGM. UNICEF, in turn, estimates that 45% of women aged 15 – 49 have undergone some form of FGM, a slight increase from 43% in 1994.
There is a strong social consensus around these mutilations. The main reasons given to justify FGM/C practice in the country are the following: i) it is a way to test the courage and the endurance of the young girls, ii) it is a guarantee for the wife’s faithfulness, iii) it is a ritual of purification and social integration (preparation to life as a housewife), iv) it is a religious requirement. FGM prevalence among women in Cote d’Ivoire varies significantly according to religion, ethnicity, region and educational status. It is most prevalent among Muslim women (78% of Muslim women undergone FMG) and least prevalent among Catholic (19%) and Protestant women (13%). For ethnicity it is prevalent among  Voltaïques (72,2 %) and Northern Mande (70,5%) ethnic groups, among the Muslim population, in rural areas and among women/girls that have not had access to education. Data show that young girls and even babies are increasingly affected by FGM/C practices, whereas the phenomenon is more and more taking an urban character, due to the recent crisis and massive population displacement.

Until 1998, there was no law that specifically prohibited FGM. The law concerning crimes against women enacted in December 1998 specifically forbids FGM and makes those who perform it subject to criminal penalties of imprisonment for up to 5 years and fines.

A survey (1998-1999) indicated high support for the abandonment of the practice in the country. 30% of women aged 15-49 who have heard of FGM/C believed the practice should be continued Support for the practice is higher among rural and less educated women, than among women living in urban areas with higher educational attainment.

Concerning violence against women, spousal abuse (usually wife beating) occurs frequently and is not specifically penalized. A woman is presumed to have consented to sexual intercourse by marrying, even if the union was at an early age and/or forced. Domestic violence is regarded as a family problem and a severe social stigma is attached to such violence. Women are often too ashamed for their presumed “bad behavior and need of correction”. The Ivorian Association for the Defense of Women (AIDF) undertook a study of domestic violence finding that 90 percent of interviewees had experienced violence in the home.

The law prohibits rape and provides for prison terms of five to ten years, and the government generally enforces this law. The sentence is life imprisonment if the perpetrator is assisted in his or her crime by one or several persons; is the father, an older relative, or a person with authority over the victim; is responsible for his or her education or intellectual or professional training. The sentence is also life in prison if the victim is a minor younger than 15. Claims were most frequently brought against child rapists. Rape was a problem, although its extent was unknown because the government did not collect statistics on rape or other physical abuse of women. Women who reported rape or domestic violence to the police were often ignored. According to Human Rights Watch, pro-government and rebel forces in Côte d’Ivoire have subjected thousands of women and girls to rape and other brutal sexual assaults with impunity. The population sex ratio in Côte d’Ivoire has been stable for the past 50 years, and there does not appear to be a great occurrence of missing women.[1]

Civil Liberties

Concerning freedom of movement, civil war which started in 2002 affected this right for all the population. It was recorded that out of the internally displaced people, 52% were women. There is no reported limitation to the women’s freedom of dress. An estimated 35% of the population is Muslim.

Ownership Rights

Ivorian women and men have equal ownership rights. There is no legal discrimination between the sexes with regards to land ownership in urban areas, but a legal act adopted in 1998 regulates the right to property in rural areas. According to article 1 of this act, rural state-owned land consists of all rural land, whether developed or not. The ownership of state-owned land is transferred by purchase, inheritance, donation among living people or intestate succession, or through bonds.

Legally, there is no gender discrimination regarding access to property other than land. This right is, however, limited under the option of “marriage with community of property” which considers husbands to be the head of the household and gives them the authority to manage assets. Access to bank loans is difficult for women, as they only rarely can meet the lending criteria established by banks, such as a title to a house and production of a profitable cash crop. In addition, banks require married women to secure their husband’s approval. There is no legal discrimination regarding access to property. This right is however limited under marriage with community of property as the husband is considered as the head of the household.


  • UNICEF, Female Genital/ Mutilation Cutting,

    • AFROL Gender Profile, Côte d’Ivoire,
    • CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS (2003), Women of the World : Laws and Policies affecting their reproductive lives – Francophone Africa
    • DHS (1998), Demographic and Health Survey 98-98 Côte d’Ivoire,
    • HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (2007), “My Heart Is Cut”, Sexual Violence by Rebels and Pro-Government Forces in Côte d’Ivoire, August 2007, vol 19(11)
    • UNICEF (2005), early marriage: an harmful practice, The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2005
    • UNICEF (2005), Côte d’Ivoire FGM country profile,
    • UN (2003), Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective. Violence against Women, Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Radhila Coomaraswamy, submitted in accordance with commision on Human Rights resulution.
    • US. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (2006), Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Côte d’Ivoire., Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
    • CEDAW (2005), Concluding comments of the committee – CEDAW : Cote d'Ivoire. 22/07/2005.A/60/38, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
    • MCT (2004). Human Rights Violations in Cote d'Ivoire, Alternative Report to the United Nations committee against torture.
    • UNICEF (2005), Female genital mutilation/Cutting: A statistical exploration, New York, UNICEF, 2005

    The Africa for Women's Rights Campaign


    Key facts

    • CEDAW: ratified in 1995
    • CEDAW Protocol: not signed
    • Maputo Protocol: signed in 2004, not ratified 

    The Campaign

    On 8 March 2009 the "Africa for Women's Rights" Campaign was launched at the initiative of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in collaboration with fove non-governmental regional organisations: the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies(ACDHRS), Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) and Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA). These organisations make up the Steering Committee responsible for the coordination of the Campaign.

    The Campaign aims to put an end to discrimination and violence against women in Africa, calling on states to ratify international and regional instruments protecting women's rights, to repeal all discriminatory laws, to adopt laws protecting the rights of women and to take all necessary measures to wensure their effective implementation.

    Country Focus: Cote D'Ivoire

    Although Côte d’Ivoire ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1995, the government has never submitted a report on implementation of its provisions to the UN Committee in charge of monitoring its application (CEDAW Committee). Côte d’Ivoire has not ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) or the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.

    Read more


    • Focal Points: WILDAF-Cote D'Ivoire
    • Ligue pour la défense des droits de l’Homme (LDH)
    • Recommendations of the CEDAW Committee, July 2005
    • Inter-Parliamentary Union,
    • Amnesty International, www.amnestyinternational/cote_d'ivoire 
    • UNCIFEF,
    • The Africa for Women's Rights campaign
    • WILDAF

    The Women, Business and the Law

    Where are laws equal for men and women? 
    Women business and the law.png

    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. Covering 128 economies, Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, dealing with taxes, building credit, and going to court.Read more about the methodology.

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


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