Gender Equality in Puerto Rico

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Flag of Puerto_Rico
Population (in Mil.) 3.64
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 101.08
Sex Ratio (m/f)
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m)
Fertility Rate 1.62
Estimated Earned Income (f/m)
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) -
Women in Parliament (in %)
Human Development Index /187
Social Institutions and Gender Index /86
Gender Inequality Index /186
Gender Equity Index /168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index /128
Global Gender Gap Index /68
More information on variables

Social Institutions

After hundreds of years of Spanish rule, Puerto Rico became a US territory in 1917. The country has been served by popularly-elected governors since 1948, with a constitution enacted in 1952 for internal self-government.[1] The World Bank classifies Puerto Rico as a high income country.[2] There is limited data on the situation of women in Puerto Rico. In 2001, the government established a Bureau for the Defence of Women (Oficina de la Procuradora de las Mujeres). Puerto Rico has introduced a number of measures to promote gender equality including legislation prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, domestic violence legislation and laws improving access to justice for rape victims.[3] A very large number of Puerto Rican households are headed by single women, who generally have lower incomes compared to male headed households.[4] In 2005, the government reported that sexist attitudes amongst those responsible for implementing policies and programmes were a challenge.[5] Article 2 of the Constitution of Puerto Rico states that “no discrimination may be made on the basis of race, colour, [and] sex (...)”, thereby upholding the principle of equality between men and women. However, the country has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.[6] Its “territory” status means that it cannot sign international agreements or instruments. Puerto Rico is not ranked as part of the United Nations Human Development Report or the World Economic Forum Gender Gap report.

Discriminatory Family Code

Very little information is available about the level of protection provided to Puerto Rican women in regard to family matters. The minimum legal age for marriage with parental authorisation is 18 years for men and 16 years for women. Without parental authorisation, it is 21 years for both men and women.[7] Early marriage is practiced in Puerto Rico. The United Nations reports, based on 2000 data that 12% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed, compared to 4% of boys in the same age range. In 1970, 16% of girls aged between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed which indicates that societal acceptance of early marriage has declined in recent decades.[8] Polygamy is reportedly not commonly practised in Puerto Rico. At time of publication, insufficient data were available to assess whether Puerto Rico grants equal rights to women and men in the areas of parental authority and inheritance.

Restricted Physical Integrity

Rape is prohibited under the Penal Code. In 1998, the Penal Code was amended to introduce a time limit on the prosecution of sexual crimes. The period of limitation is five years if the victim is aged above 21 years; for younger victims, the period of limitation extends to five years beyond their 21st birthday. The 1979 Law 6 precludes that, in any trial for the offense of rape or an attempt, evidence be admitted on the previous conduct or sexual history of the assaulted woman. Legislation was passed in 1976 (Resolution 2471) to provide for the allocation of funds to create a support centre for victims of rape.[9] A law on domestic violence (Act 54) was passed in 1989, but legal precedents have restricted its application. For example, Act 54 excludes adulterous and same-sex couples, thereby leaving individuals in such relationships without legal protection.[10] Sexual harassment in public schools, private schools and the workplace is prohibited by law.[11] Although prevalence data is not available, official statistics suggest that violence against women is common in Puerto Rico. The government reported in 2006 that domestic violence reports increased from 20 059 in 2001 to 22 778 in 2005, with female victims and male perpetrators in 86% of cases. In 2004, 31 women were murdered as a result of domestic violence.[12] In 2006, there were a total of 2899 police complaints in relation to sexual violence.[13] Female genital mutilation is reportedly not a common practice in Puerto Rico.

The extent to which women have control over the reproductive health also has an impact on physical integrity. Abortion has been legal in Puerto Rico since 1974 following the US Supreme Court decision regarding the Roe v Wade case.[14] Induced abortions can be practised only in private family planning clinics and are performed by doctors. The government reported in 2005 that there were seven such clinics in operation. A 1996 survey found that 78% of women were using any form of contraception and 6% were using condoms.[15]

Son Bias

There is very no data available to evaluate whether son preference is commonly practiced in Puerto Rico. The Central Intelligence Agency reports that Puerto Rico has a male/female sex ratio for the total population of 0.92.[16] There is no evidence to indicate that it is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

Restricted Resources and Entitlements

At time of publication, there were insufficient data to indicate whether women’s ownership rights are restricted in relation to access to land, access to property other than land, and access to bank loans.

Restricted Civil Liberties

There do not appear to be any legal restrictions on women’s freedom of movement or freedom of dress in Puerto Rico. However, the threat of violence as noted in the Physical Integrity section impinges upon women’s freedom of movement. In 2005, the government noted the efforts of women’s civil society organisations and the women’s movement in securing advances towards gender equality.[17] This suggests women play an active role in public policy making in Puerto Rico. With respect to women’s political participation, in 2005 the government reported that 7 of the 28 senators (25%) and 7 of the 51 representatives (14%) were women.[18] In terms of participation in employment, Puerto Rico has introduced a number of reforms including laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination, discrimination on the basis of marital status, promotion of equal opportunities and the establishment of day-care centres in all public agencies. The Working Mothers’ Protection Act provides for paid maternity leave at full pay.[19] It is reported that the paid maternity leave entitlement is for 8 weeks.[20]


  1. Central Intelligence Agency (2011) The World Fact Book: Puerto Rico, available at, accessed 19 January 2011.
  2. World Bank (n.d.) Online data: Puerto Rico, available at, accessed at 11 January 2011
  3. United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (2005) Report of Puerto Rico on implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, available at, accessed 19 January 2011.
  4. Officina de la Procuradora de las Mujeres (2006), Situacion de las mujeres en Puerto Rico, available at, accessed 19 January¬jeresempuertoricoRev92006.pdf.
  5. Reference 3
  6. Section 1, Article 2, Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  7. Cornell Law School (n.d.), Marriage Laws of the Fifty States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,
  8. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) World Marriage Data 2008, available at, accessed 10 October 2010.
  9. ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council) (2003), Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women, E/CN.4/2003/75/Add.1, UN New York, NY p.257
  10. Reference 9 p.257
  11. Reference 3
  12. Reference 4
  13. Departmento de Salud (2007) Violenca Sexual en Puerto Rico, available at, accessed 19 January 2011.
  14. Reference 3
  15. Reference 4
  16. Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at, accessed 29 February 2012.
  17. Reference 3
  18. Reference 3
  19. Reference 3
  20. Puerto Rico Herald (2005) Labor laws weigh heavily on Puerto Rico’s employers, 25 August 2005, available at, accessed 19 January 2011

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 Puerto Rico, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Puerto Rico


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