Gender Equality in Venezuela

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Flag of Venezuela
Population (in Mil.) 29.95
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 381.29
Sex Ratio (m/f) 0.98
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.084507042
Fertility Rate 2.42
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.5
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 78.1
Women in Parliament (in %) 17
Human Development Index 71/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index 15/86
Gender Inequality Index 71/186
Gender Equity Index 77/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 70/128
Global Gender Gap Index 50/68
More information on variables

Social Institutions

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was one of three countries to emerge from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830. Democratically elected governments have governed the country since 1959.[1] Data from the National Institute of Statistics showed that in 2004, 61% of the population still could not meet their basic nutritional needs, and that around half the population still lived in extreme poverty.[2] The World Bank classifies Venezuela as an upper middle income country.[3]

Whilst Venezuela has introduced a number of reforms to promote gender equality, persistent discriminatory attitudes towards women and gender stereotypes undermine women’s status.[4] Whilst Venezuela has achieved gender parity in education, women fare worse than men on key economic indicators including labour force participation, wage equality and income.[5] Further, women are under-represented in political life.[6] Domestic violence has been noted as a significant issue in Venezuela.[7] Illiteracy and school dropout rates are reported to be very high among indigenous women and women of African descent, who are also more susceptible to trafficking and exploitation.[8]

Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Venezuela, adopted in 1999, upholds equal rights for men and women in all areas of daily life including within the family, at work, in the community and in political and economic affairs. It also prohibits all forms of discrimination. Article 88 recognises the economic and social value of domestic work. Article 76 recognizes women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Venezuela ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1983.

In 2011, the Human Development Index for Venezuela was 0.735, placing the country at 73 out of 187 countries.[9] For the Gender Inequality Index Venezuela received a score of 0.447, placing the country at 78 out of 146 countries with data.[10] In 2011, the World Economic Forum ranked Venezuela 63 out of 135 countries in its 2011 Global Gender Gap Report, with a score of 0.6861 where 0 represents inequality and 1 represents equality.[11]

Discriminatory Family Code

Article 46 of the Civil Code provides that the legal minimum age for marriage is 14 years for women and 16 years for men. Further, the constitution provides that marriage between a man and a woman based on free consent.[12] The United Nations reports, based on 2001 data that 17% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed, compared to 5% of boys in the same age range. In 1990, 18% of girls aged between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed which indicates that societal acceptance of early marriage has remained at similar levels in the last decade.[13] It is reported that around 15% of adolescent females are mothers.[14] There is no evidence to indicate that polygamy is practised in Venezuela. Reform of the Civil Code in 1982 established equality between men and women in relation to parental authority, effectively overriding the long-held principle that husbands had authority over their wives.[15] Article 76 of the Constitution provides men and women with equal responsibility for their children’s education and development.[16] The Organic Law on the Protection of Children and Adolescents upholds the ‘best interest of the child’ principle as the overriding principle for decision-making about children.[17] Legally, women and men in Venezuela have the same inheritance rights. Data indicates that women’s role in the family has changed in Venezuela in recent decades. Although this could be attributed to economic necessity, this also suggests that there may be a shift in attitudes around women’s role in the family. Between 1994 and 2007, the percentage of women aged 15 or over who did not work outside the home fell from 46% to 31%.[18]

Restricted Physical Integrity

In 2007, Venezuela enacted the Organic Law on the Right of Women to Be Free from Violence.[19] The law prohibits rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment.[20] The law has been noted for its broad definition of violence including: violence in relation to assets, obstetric violence, forced sterilisation, institutional violence, trafficking of women and others.[21] The law provides that rape is punishable with 8 to 14 years’ imprisonment. Penalties for domestic violence range from 6 to 27 months in prison. Sexual harassment is punishable by a prison sentence of one to three years.[22] In addition to punishment and prosecution, the 2007 law requires the authorities to implement a far-reaching programme to raise awareness and challenge public attitudes which condone or conceal this under-reported crime. For example, it calls on the Ministry of Infrastructure and the National Commission for Telecommunications to ensure that programming includes broadcasts aimed at preventing and ending violence against women.[23] The law also requires police to report domestic violence to judicial authorities and obligates hospital personnel to notify the authorities when they admit patients who are victims of domestic abuse.[24] Further, the law has led to the establishment of Specialist Courts for Violence Against Women. In 2010, the government reported that more than 100,000 complaints of violence against women across the country had been received by those courts.[25] Although there are no prevalence studies, statistics indicate high levels of violence against women in Venezuela. Amnesty International reports that in 2005, 36777 women reported abuse by partners or former partners to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and women’s services – an average of one woman every 15 minutes.[26] Every 10 days a woman dies through gender violence in Caracas. The Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Team reports approximately 3000 cases of sexual violence every year.[27] In 2006, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women expressed particular concern about the level of domestic violence in Venezuela, commenting that the persistence of gender-based stereotypes and the idea that domestic violence is a ‘private’ issue is responsible for the situation.[28] Amnesty International has commented that although the 2007 holds great promise in improving women’s safety, obstacles to its successful implementation remain. These obstacles include: lack of public awareness, information and education about the issue; inadequate data collection; insufficient shelters for victims; and a poorly resourced police and judicial infrastructure.[29] According to the US Department of State, rape cases were often not reported to police.[30] The 2008 Amnesty International report notes that shame and social stigma continue to prevent women from seeking help or reporting violence. For instance, women may hold the view that what happens in the home is private or that domestic violence is a personal failure for women.[31] Further, the US Department of State reports that despite public awareness efforts, police were generally reluctant to intervene to prevent domestic violence.[32] The US Department of State also reports that trafficking is a problem impacting upon women’s physical integrity in Venezuela. The country is a source, destination, and transit country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Women and children are reportedly trafficked internally and to Western Europe, particularly Spain and the Netherlands, and to destinations in the region such as Mexico, Aruba, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago for commercial sexual exploitation. Women and children from poor areas are particularly at risk of being trafficked.[33]

Female genital mutilation is reportedly not a common practice in Venezuela. Limitations on women’s reproductive rights also infringe upon women’s physical integrity in Venezuela. Despite the constitutional guarantee of sexual and reproductive rights, under the Criminal Code, abortions are generally illegal in Venezuela except to save a woman’s life.[34] The government reported in 2004 that unsafe abortion is the third most common cause of maternal death in the country.[35] The World Economic Forum reports that 70% of married women use contraception.[36]

Son Bias

Gender disaggregated data on rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for Venezuela. In terms of child labour, according to 2005 data, boys (7%) are more likely than girls (4%) to be engaged in economic activity. However, girls are more likely than boys to be engaged in unpaid work in the family, whereas boys are more likely than girls to be engaged in paid employment.[37] This data suggests a son bias in the allocation of unpaid work in the family. With respect to access to education, the World Economic Forum reports that Venezuela has reached gender parity in primary, secondary and tertiary education enrolments which suggests that there is no preferential treatment of sons with respect to education.[38]

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 0.98.[39]

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

Restricted Resources and Entitlements

The government of Venezuela has taken steps to improve women’s ownership rights. In regard to access to land, the 2001 Law on Land and Agricultural Development states that one priority is “to allocate land to women who are also heads of their household and who intend to cultivate a small area of land in order to sustain their family group”.[40]

The 1982 reform of the Civil Code improved women’s access to property other than land by making provisions for the joint administration of a married couple’s joint property. The reform also gave married women full legal capacity to enter into contracts.[41] The Commercial Code explicitly stipulates that women can establish businesses regardless of marital status.[42]

The Women’s Development Bank was created in 2001 to improve women’s access to bank loans. It is a public, micro-credit institution that provides loans and other financial and non-financial services to women living in poverty. The government reports that between September 2001 and 2004 the Women’s Bank approved some 40,000 loans. Approximately 120,000 potential jobs have been created in two and a half years, benefiting 600,000 persons throughout the country.[43] Further, the Microfinance Fund granted 3,235 loans to women between 2001 and 2003.[44] Despite these efforts, women remain under-represented as business owners. In 2010, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reported that women made up 18% of employers and 38% of the self-employed.[45]

Restricted Civil Liberties

There are no reported legal restrictions on women’s freedom of access to public space in Venezuela. However, as described in the Physical Integrity section, the threat of gender-based violence in Venezuela impinges upon women’s freedom of movement. With respect to women’s participation in political life, women in Venezuela have the same rights as men to vote in all elections, to be elected and to participate in the political and public life of the country.[46] The government reports that it introduced a specific ‘Campaign for 50/50 participation in arms of government’ to increase women’s political participation.[47] The World Economic Forum reports that women make up 17% of Venezuela’s parliamentarians and 26% of Ministerial positions.[48]

Article 88 of the Constitution provides that the State shall guarantee the equality and equity of men and women in the exercise of the right to work. It also provides that the government should recognise housework as an economic activity which creates added value and produces wealth and social well-being.[49] Women’s right to equal pay is also guaranteed in the Constitution.[50] According to the World Economic Forum, women in Venezuela are entitled to 18 weeks paid maternity leave, paid at 67% of wages through the social insurance system.[51]


  1. Central Intelligence Agency (2011) The World Fact Book: Venezuela, available at, accessed 20 January 2011.
  2. United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2006c) Summary record of the 714th meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.714, New York.para.26
  3. World Bank (n.d.)
  4. United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2006a) Concluding Observations: Venezuela, CEDAW/C/VEN/CO/6, New York.p.4
  5. World Economic Forum (2010) Global Gender Gap Report 2010, Available at, accessed 20 October 2010.p.310
  6. See reference 5 p.310
  7. Amnesty International (2008) Venezuela: "The law is there, let's use it" Ending domestic violence in Venezuela, available at, accessed 21 January 2011.
  8. United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2006b) Summary record of the 713th meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.713, New York.para.24
  9. United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at, accessed 29 February 2012. p.128
  10. Reference 9 p.140
  11. World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at, accessed 2 March 2012. p.10
  12. United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2004), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Venezuela, Combined Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/VEN/4-6, CEDAW New York, NY. p.47
  13. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) World Marriage Data 2008, available at, accessed 10 October 2010.
  14. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (2010) What kind of State? What kind of equality?, available at, accessed 20 January 2011. p.37
  15. See reference 12 p.47
  16. See reference 12 p.47
  17. SEE REFERENCE 12 p.47
  18. See reference 14 p.34
  19. Reference 7
  20. US State Department (2010) 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Venezuela, Available, accessed 19 January 2011.
  21. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Permanent Mission to the United Nations (2010)
  22. Reference 20
  23. Reference 7 p.8
  24. Reference 20
  25. Reference 21
  26. Reference 7 p.7
  27. Reference 7 p.8
  28. Reference 8 para.25
  29. Reference 7 p.9
  30. Reference 20
  31. Reference 7 pp.24-25
  32. Reference 20
  33. Reference 20
  34. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2007)’World abortion policies’, data downloaded from (accessed 21 October 2010).
  35. See reference 12 p.40
  36. See reference 5 p.310
  37. Understanding Children’s Work (n.d.)
  38. See reference 5 p.310
  39. Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Fact Book: Sex Ratio, available at, accessed 29 February 2012.
  40. SEE REFERENCE 12 p.7
  41. SEE REFERENCE 12 p.46
  42. SEE REFERENCE 12 p.46
  43. SEE REFERENCE 12 p.12
  44. SEE REFERENCE 12 p.12
  45. See reference 14 p.52
  46. SEE REFERENCE 12 p.17
  47. SEE REFERENCE 12 p.8
  48. See reference 5 p.310
  49. SEE REFERENCE 12 p.29
  50. SEE REFERENCE 12 p.30
  51. See reference 5 p.310

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 Venezuela, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Venezuela


The FAO Gender and Land Rights Database

FAO logo.jpg

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 Venezuela, please visit the report on Venezuela in the FAO Gender and Land Rights Database.


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