Gender Gap Index[1]

Gender Gap Index 2014
Overall Economic Participation Political Empowerment Educational Attainment
Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score
124 0.626 126 0.480 116 0.077 90 0.986
(Rank: out of 142 countries) (Score: 0.00 = inequality, 1.00 = equality)


Family Code/ Personal Status Law

  • In 2009, Bahrain adopted a personal status code for the first time, although this only applies to Sunni Muslims. Prior to this, matters relating to the family, marriage and inheritance were governed by the Shari'ah courts, and by Shari’ah and customary law, which differed according to which religious sect a woman belongs to.
  • This is still the case for women who are not Sunni Muslims, including the Shiite majority, with the result that cases are decided on the basis of judges' personal interpretations of Islamic texts instead of codified law, often meaning that women's rights are ignored or violated in the courts.
  • The civil courts govern personal status matters for non-Muslims.


  • As of 2007, the minimum age of marriage is fixed at 18 for males and 15 for females. Shari'ah courts have the power to make exceptions in cases of 'urgent need' (not specified)
  • Only marriages concluded under Shari'ah law are legally recognised in Bahrain for its citizens
  • The most recent figures on early marriage (from the UN in 2001) indicate that at that time 4.2% of girls aged 15-19 were married, divorced or widowed
  • Parental Authority: It is unclear whether men and women have equal parental authority over children during marriage. However, the father retains legal custody following divorce. In addition, the husband is legally recognized as the guardian of his wife
  • There is no criminal or civil legislation in place in Bahrain protecting women from domestic violence. As of 2011 a draft domestic violence law was under discussion.


  • Since 2009, custody of children is assigned to Sunni women for boys up to the age of 15 and girls up to the age of 17 or until married. The ages are 7 and 9 respectively for Shiite women.
  • Women can only have physical custody, the father always retains legal custody.
  • A woman also loses custody if she remarries
  • Apart from a very narrow range of circumstances, only men are able to initiate divorce

Resources and Assets

  • Women do not enjoy equal inheritance rights as wives and daughters, which is governed by Shari'ah law. However, in the absence of a direct male heir, Bahraini Shiite interpretations allow daughters to inherit the full estate of a deceased father
  • Property and land ownership is governed by civil law in Bahrain, not by Shari'ah law. Under civil law, women have the same legal capacity as men
  • Under Bahrain’s Constitution, Commercial Code, and National Action Charter, women have the right to own, access, and manage land and non-land assets (property other than land)
  • Upon marriage, a woman retains control and ownership of any property that she owns unless stipulated in the marriage contract; she can manage and dispose of that property without her husband’s consent
  • Women and men have the same legal rights to access financial services, including credit and bank loans (law not specified)


  • Discrimination in employment on the basis of gender is illegal in Bahrain, and it is illegal to dismiss a woman from employment while she is on maternity leave.
  • Pregnant women in Bahrain are entitled to 45 days' paid maternity leave, and a further 15 days unpaid. While on maternity leave, a woman receives 100% of her salary. Paid maternity leave is financed by the employer
  • Under the new personal status law, married Sunni women must still obtain their husband's permission before taking employment outside the home.
  • Migrant women workers face legal restrictions on their freedom of movement, as their legal status in the country is dependent on their employers. They cannot leave the country until their employer has cancelled their work visa, and must wait one year before they can change jobs within Bahrain.

Political Participation

Women's Political Participation Year Total Source
Number of women in parliament (single/lower house) 2014 4/40 (lower house) 11/40 (upper house) IPU database
% of women in parliament 2014 10% (lower house) 27.5% (upper house)
Legislated quotas for women for single/ lower house (yes/no) 2014 NO The Quota Project database
Number of women in ministerial positions 2014 15 World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
% of women in ministerial positions 2014 15%


  • Bahrain's Constitution, which was amended in 2002, provides equal rights to women and men at articles 1 and 5, and bans discrimination on the basis of gender, so long as this is compatible with Shari’ah law


  • There are currently no quotas in place to promote women's political participation in Bahrain. In 2010, a proposal to introduce a quota at the parliamentary level was rejected by the Supreme Council for Women on the grounds that it would be discriminatory under the Constitution.
  • According to the official Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) report (2011), a woman was directly elected onto a municipal council for the first time in 2010.


  • The Majiliis Al-Nuwab/ Council of Representatives (Lower House) – last elections 2010: 4/40 (20%) female representatives (directly elected)
  • Majilis Al-Shura/ Shura Council (Upper House) – last elections 2010: 11/40 (27.5%) female representatives (appointed)


CEDAW and reservations[7]

  • Bahrain ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2002, with reservations to the following articles (2, 9:2, 15:4, 16, and 29:1):
  • Article 2, in order to ensure its implementation within the bounds of the provisions of the Islamic Shari'ah;
  • Article 9, paragraph 2; the right of a woman to pass her citizenship to her husband and children
  • Article 15, paragraph 4; a woman's freedom of movement and choice regarding residence and housing
  • Article 16, equality in marriage and family life in so far as it is incompatible with the provisions of the Islamic Shari'ah;
  • Article 29, paragraph 1.
  • It has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol on violence against women.

Economic Empowerment[8]

Women’s Economic Participation Year Total Source
Labour Force Participation
Ratio of female to male labour force participation 2014 0.46 World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Labour force participation, female (% of total labour force) 2012 19.5% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Labour force participation, female (% of female population 15-64) 2012 40.8%
Labour force participation, male (% of male population 15-64) 2012 88.5%
Youth Employment
Ratio of female to male youth unemployment rate (% aged 15-24) 2012 127.2% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Unemployment, female (% of female labour force) 2010 3.7% World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Unemployment, male (% of male labour force) 2010 0.4%
Unemployment, total (% of total labour force) 2010 1.1% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Firms with female participation in ownership (% of firms) 2014 / World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Boards and Upper Management
Firms with female top managers (% of firms) 2014 / World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Sectors of Work
Agriculture (% of female employment) 2010 0% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Agriculture (% of male employment) 2010 1.3%
Women employed in non-agricultural sector (% of total non-agricultural employment) 2014 21% World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Industry (% of female employment) 2010 9% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Industry (% of male employment) 2010 42.1%
Services (% of female employment) 2010 89.7%
Services (% of male employment) 2010 55.3%
Vulnerable employment (% of female employment) 2010 1.1%
Vulnerable employment (% of male employment) 2010 2.2%
Employers, female (% of employment) 2011 1.8%
Employers, male (% of employment) 2011 2.1%


  • Some government programmes to support the establishment of small and medium-sized businesses have specifically targeted women. These include the Family Bank, established in 2007, which provides micro-credit as well as other services to support women entrepreneurs, and the Edbaa Bank (established in 2009), which provides micro- credit to low-income recipients. Women made up 65% of recipients of micro-credit loans from the Edbaa Bank, to the end of 2010 [CEDAW 2011)

[1] World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014:
[2] All information on legislation has been sourced from the OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index, 2014: Unless stated otherwise.
[5] e/parlinesearch.asp
[8] All information on economic empowerment has been sourced from the World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank: statistics. Unless stated otherwise.