Gender Equality in Liberia

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Flag of Liberia
Population (in Mil.) 4.19
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 1.74
Sex Ratio (m/f) 1
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.033898305
Fertility Rate 5.13
Estimated Earned Income (f/m)
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 19.1
Women in Parliament (in %) 11
Human Development Index 174/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index 62/86
Gender Inequality Index 174/186
Gender Equity Index 109/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index /128
Global Gender Gap Index /68
More information on variables

Social Institutions

The Constitution of Liberia prohibits discrimination; however, there are no specific laws against gender-based discrimination or discrimination based on ethnicity and both still are still evident. In 2001, the government created a Ministry for Gender and Development. In 2005, Liberia became the first African country to elect a woman, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, as president.

The status of women in Liberia varies according to region, ethnic group and religion. Customary (traditional) laws are a major contributing factor to inequality: women who are married according to customary law are considered to be legal minors. The civil war that ravaged Liberia has had grave consequences for women.

Family Code

Liberia’s Family Code grants very few rights to women. The new law on family relationships sets the minimum legal age for marriage at 18 years for women and 21 years for men. In reality, the custom of Early marriage is very widespread, especially in rural areas, where girls marry from the age of just 12 or 13 years. Once they are married, they are no longer entitled to legal protection . A 2004 United Nations report estimated that 36% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or Widowed. There has been a slight increase in the average age of first marriage in Liberia.

Liberia’s civil law prohibits Polygamy but customary law allows men to have several wives; more than one-third of married women between 15 and 49 years of age live in polygamous marriages.

According to customary law, married women have no right to Parental authority. In fact, if a woman’s husband dies, she has no right to custody of their children. The government passed a new civil law recognising shared child custody, but in the matter of parental responsibility it appears that discrimination against women persists. Under Liberia’s civil law on inheritance, married women can inherit land and property. By contrast, women married under customary law cannot inherit from their spouses. There is no information available on the inheritance rights of daughters.

Physical Integrity

Women's physical integrity is not sufficiently protected in Liberia. Violence against women is common and no serious consideration is given to victims by the authorities, the justice system or the media. Liberian law prohibits domestic violence, but to date no offender has received any sentence beyond six months in prison. In 2006, the government promulgated a new law that broadens the definition of Rape and recognises spousal rape as a crime. Rape is now punishable by law, but as yet the authorities are not in a position to apply the legislation. Women have paid a high price in the civil conflicts in Liberia, during which rape was used extensively as a weapon of war. However, it was also used a weapon of war against men which were raped too.

There is no law prohibiting Female genital mutilation (FGM) in Liberia. The practice is, in fact, quite common particularly among ethnic groups in the north, west and centre of the country, and more generally in rural areas. The civil war destabilised life in the villages and led to a decrease in FGM at the end of the 1990s, but the practice resurfaced recently in many communities. About half of Liberia’s female population has been subjected to FGM.

Liberia does not appear to be a country of concern in relation to Missing women.

Civil Liberties

Liberian women’s civil liberties are guaranteed by law, but have been severely restricted as a result of the civil war, which led to widespread population movement. Women and children comprise the majority of displaced people living in refugee camps. Aside from this situation of vulnerability, there are no reported restrictions on women's Freedom of movement or Freedom of dress.

Ownership Rights

Liberian legislation grants equal ownership rights to men and women, but discrimination based on tradition persists. The law provides men and women with the same rights regarding access to land, access to property other than land and access to bank loans. In practice, there is significant discrimination against women, particularly when they have married under customary law.


  • AFROL Gender Profile, Liberia ,
  • ASSANI, A. (2000), Etude sur les mariages précoces et grossesses précoces au Burkina-Faso, Cameroun, Gambie, Liberia, Niger et Tchad, UNICEF WCARO, Abidjan.
  • CRC (2004), Examen des rapports présentés par les Etats parties en application de l’article 44 de la convention. Observations finales du comité des droits de l’enfant :Libéria, Comité des Droits de l’Enfants, CRC/C/15/Add.236
  • SWISS, S ; JENNINGS, P. and G.V. ARYEE (1998), Violence against women during the Liberian civil conflict, Journal of the American Medical association, 279(8), 625-629
  • The Guardian, The rape of men, 17.7.2011
  • 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 resolution
  • UN (2004), World Fertility Report, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. New York: UN (2004)
  • UN (2006a), World Population Prospects, Population data base, United Nations Population division , New York: UN
  • UN (2007), Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 entitled ‘Human Rights Council’, report of the independent expert on technical cooperation and advisory services in Liberia, Charlotte Abaka, A/HRC/4/6
  • US. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (2006), Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Liberia , Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
  • US. DEPARTMENT OF STATE (2007), International Religious Freedom Report, Liberia, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
  • VON STRUENSEE (2005), The Contribution of Polygamy to Women's Oppression and Impoverishment: An Argument for its Prohibition, Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, [2005] MurUEJL2,

The Africa for Women's Rights Campaign


Key facts

  • CEDAW: ratified in 1984
  • CEDAW Protocol: signed in 2004
  • Maputo Protocol: ratified in 2008

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: Liberia

Liberia has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) without reservations. However, Liberia has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.

Despite the ratification of the CEDAW in 1984, it has yet to be incorporated into Liberian law and is not justiciable in Liberian courts. The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly concerned by the following continued violations of women’s rights in Liberia: the persistence of discriminatory laws; unequal status within the family; violence against women; and limited access to education, employment, decision-making positions and health services.

Read more


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


Progress Assessment of MDG 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Millennium Development Goal #3 is divided into three sub-categories, each of them focusing on different areas: education, employment wage and political power.

MDG Tracking Index of Liberia-2010

Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education

Liberia'ratio of girls to boy in primary school is at 0.93 in 2006. For the secondary, the ratio was at 0.84 for the same year and data weren't disponible for tertiary level of education[1]. The Liberian Government estimates that gender parity is likely to be met by 2015.

Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector

The proportion of women in wage employment in nonagricultural activities in Liberia was 23.6 percent in 1990. This figure increased by only 4 percentage points over a 13 year period to 36 per cent in 2003. Liberia's government sees wage employment in the non-agricultural sector as an effective poverty exit strategy that must be exploited to reduce the incidence of poverty among women[2].

Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament

Liberian women held 12.5% of the seats of the national Parliament in 2007[3].Female representation in Parliament has dramatically increased in Liberia: women represented 5.7% of the national representatives in 1997. This number has more than doubled, in a span of ten years, in spite of the civil war.

In the context of the reconstruction and peacebuilding following the civil war, Liberia created a Minister of Gender and Development,which reflected the government's commitment to ensure gender equality and the empowerment of women. A National Girls's Education Policy is being launched with the help of UN-Liberia to increase the enrollment and retention of girls in public schools.

Liberia's progress towards the MDGs is at 34% according to the MDG Track Global Index for Liberia is 34% which estimates the country to be on track for 2020[4]


  1. UNDP.Government of Liberia. 2008.Liberia's Progress Towards the Millenium Development Goals 2008
  2. UNDP.Government of Liberia. 2008.Liberia's Progress Towards the Millenium Development Goals 2008
  3. MDG Track Monitor.Goal 3.Liberia
  4. MDG Track Global Index.2010.Liberia

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