Gender Gap Index

The World Economic Forum does not include Iraq in the most recent Global Gender Gap Reports.


Family Code/ Personal Status Law

  • Under Article 41 of the 2005 Constitution, each religious group in Iraq has the right to govern its own personal status matters. However, this provision has not yet been implemented, as revisions to the Constitution are on going (as of 2011), and because women’s rights activists in Iraq have mounted a sustained campaign against Article 41.
  • Iraqi law considers women over 18 to be full adults, in contrast to many other neighbouring countries where women are considered legal minors, under the protection of a male guardian.
  • Given on-going discussions regarding personal status matters under Article 41 of the Constitution, matters relating to the family in Iraq continue to be governed by the Personal Status Law of 1959.


  • The consent of both spouses is needed for a marriage to be legal, and the legal age of marriage is 18 years for both men and women (but with parents’ consent and judicial permission the age can be lowered to 15 years).
  • Eventual implementation of Article 41 of the Constitution would allow each religious group in Iraq to govern its own personal status matters. This could result in different minimum age for marriage being adopted by different groups.
  • Early marriage does occur, often arranged by parents and performed under a religious ceremony, but is not legally recognised.
  • Under the Personal Status Law, the father is the guardian of the children, meaning that women and men do not have equal parental authority over children. Mothers are considered the physical – but not legal – custodians


  • Men and women have different rights regarding divorce in Iraq: men have the right to divorce their wives unilaterally (repudiation), while women can file for divorce based on a number of specific causes
  • In cases of divorce, under the 1959 Personal Status Law, women are granted physical custody of children up to the age of 10, during which the father must pay child support to the mother. This custody can be extended up to the age of 15 if it is in the child’s best interests, after which time the child can decide which parent s/he wants to live with. A woman does not automatically lose physical custody of her children if she remarries.

Resources and Assets

  • The 1959 Personal Status law granted women and men equal inheritance rights. However, subsequent amendments effectively reintroduced Shari’ah law as the framework for deciding on inheritance matters, and this discriminates against women.
  • Under the 1970 Agrarian Reform Law, women in Iraq were granted the right to exercise economic independence and own and cultivate land.
  • Under the 2005 Constitution (Article 23) and the Civil Code, women and men have the same rights to own, access, and manage non-land assets.
  • Married women have the right to retain to ownership and control of their own property, including land. Land and property ownership appear to be governed exclusively by civil law.
  • Women also have the right to enter into financial contracts and access financial services, including bank loans and other forms of credit, and do not need their husband’s permission to do so
  • However, UNDP notes that women routinely need permission from husbands or male relatives to engage in activities outside the home, including economic activities.


  • Women are protected from discrimination in the workplace under the 1987 Labour Code.
  • Pregnant women in Iraq are entitled to 62 days’ paid maternity leave. While on maternity leave, women receive their full salary, paid for by the employer.


  • In Iraq, there is no specific law criminalizing domestic violence. Article 29 of the Constitution prohibits all forms of violence and abuse within the family
  • According to UNICEF, as of 2011, the Iraqi government was drafting a domestic violence Sexual harassment is covered under the 1969 Penal Code and the 1987 Labour Code.
  • The physical integrity of women in Iraq has been systematically compromised as a result of the on-going conflict, and women in many parts of Iraq are at risk of physical and sexual violence on a day-to-day basis.

Political Participation

Women's Political Participation Year Total Source
Number of women in parliament (single/lower house) 2014 83/328 IPU database
% of women in parliament 2014 25.3%
Legislated quotas for women for single/ lower house (yes/no) 2014 YES The Quota Project database


  • Iraq’s new Constitution (adopted in 2005) states that all Iraqis are equal before the law and prohibits discrimination based on sex (at Article 14). However, the Constitution also cites Islam as the basic source of legislation and forbids the passing of laws contradictory to its “established rulings”, and Article 41 allows each religious group in Iraq to govern its own personal status matters. As a result, the situation of women in Iraq very much depends on the implementation of Islamic law and on the priorities of male religious authorities.


  • According to Article 3 (3) of Law No. 26 (2009) amending the 2005 Electoral Law: 'The proportion of women shall not be less than one quarter of the winners'. According to Regulation no. 21, Seat Allocation (2010), 'At least 25% of the women in the Council of Representatives must be women. Achievement of this quota is ensured through a complex set of procedures set out in this regulation, which provides for rules for determining the number of women each governorate will have to elect.’
  • At the Sub-National level, there is no quota. According to article 13 (2) of law no. 36 of 2008 on the Elections of the provincial, districts, and sub-districts councils: 'The candidate who secures the highest number of votes within the list shall be deemed the winner and so on for the rest of candidates and to have a woman at the end of all three winners regardless of men winners.'
  • In Iraqi Kurdistan there is a 30% quota in place in the KRG parliament.


  • Since 30 April 2014, the unicameral Council of Representatives of Iraq currently has 83/328 (25.3%) female representatives (320 directly elected, with 8 reserved for minority groups)


  • In 2007, a prominent woman journalist and woman’s rights activist, Sahar Hussain al-Haideri, was shot dead by an Islamist armed group, after having criticised such groups for their attacks on women’s rights. Women journalists are a rarity in Iraq, and many have faced violence and intimidation, particularly those writing and broadcasting on human rights and other contentious issues.
  • In general, the media does not engage with gender issues that could be deemed sensitive, and portrays women in the stereotypical roles of mother and homemaker.

CEDAW and reservations[6]

  • Iraq ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1986, with reservations to the following articles (2, 9, 16, 29:1):
  • Article 2 (f) and (g), which call on states to modify or abolish existing laws and penal codes that discriminate against women;
  • Article 9, which require equal rights regarding changes and transfers of nationality; Article 16, which concerns the elimination of discrimination in marriage and family relations;
  • Article 29, paragraph 1, with regard to the principle of international arbitration on the interpretation or application of the convention.
  • It has yet to ratify the Optional Protocol on Violence Against Women

Economic Empowerment[7]

Women’s Economic Participation Year Total Source
Labour Force Participation
Labour force participation, female (% of total labour force) 2012 17.4% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Labour force participation, female (% of female population 15-64) 2012 15.5%
Labour force participation, male (% of male population 15-64) 2012 72.2%
Youth Employment
Ratio of female to male youth unemployment rate (% aged 15-24) 2012 187.8% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Unemployment, female (% of female labour force) 2011 22.9% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Unemployment, male (% of male labour force) 2011 13.6%
Unemployment, total (% of total labour force) 2011 15.1%
Firms with female participation in ownership (% of firms) 2011 6.8% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Boards and Upper Management
Firms with female top managers (%) 2011 2.4% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Sectors of Work
Agriculture (% of female employment) 2008 50.7% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Agriculture (% of male employment) 2008 17.1%
Industry (% of female employment) 2008 3.7%
Industry (% of male employment) 2008 21.6%
Services (% of female employment) 2008 45.6%
Services (% of male employment) 2008 61.3%

[1] All information on legislation has been sourced from the OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index, 2014: Unless stated otherwise.
[7] All information on economic empowerment has been sourced from the World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank: Unless stated otherwise.