Gender Gap Index[1]

Gender Gap Index 2014
Overall Economic Participation Political Empowerment Educational Attainment
Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score
113 0.646 109 0.608 137 0.027 76 0.991
(Rank: out of 142 countries) (Score: 0.00 = inequality, 1.00 = equality)


Family Code/ Personal Status Law

  • Under the Personal Status Act (1984), family matters are governed by Shari’ah law and handled within the state-run Shari’ah court system in which the testimony of a man equals that of two women.


  • Under the Personal Status Act (1984), the legal age of marriage in Kuwait is 15 years for women and 17 years for men. However, according to the U.S. Department of State, girls continue to marry below the legal age in some tribal groups
  • The law forbids marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men.
  • Unlike Sunni women, Shiite women are able to marry without the consent of their guardians.
  • Kuwaiti women face discrimination in regard to parental authority. Shari’ah law views fathers as the natural guardians of children, whereas mothers are seen as the physical, but not legal, custodians. This conception of guardianship is codified under Articles 110 of the Civil Code and 209 of the Personal Status Act, under which mothers can serve as legal guardians only when authorized through a court decision


  • Men have the right to divorce their wives unilaterally, whereas women can only seek divorce under certain circumstances.
  • In the event of divorce, Article 189 of the Personal Status Act gives mothers the right to physical custody of young children. Under Sunni family law, mothers are given custody of sons until they reach the age of 15 years and of daughters until they marry. But under Shiite family law, women are only granted custody of girls up until the age of seven, and boys to the age of two.
  • Divorced women who choose to remarry during this period lose their custody rights.
  • In Kuwait, which has the highest total divorce rate among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, divorce and remarriage have become easier and carry less of a social stigma than in past decades.

Resources and Assets

  • Inheritance is governed by the Personal Status Act, Articles 299 and 300 do not provide for equal inheritance shares for sons compared to daughters and wives compared to husbands
  • Under Sunni family law, women are able to inherit physical property, whereas under Shiite family law, women can only inherit the value of that property. However, in general, Shiite inheritance regulations in Kuwait are said to be more egalitarian to women compared to Sunni regulations
  • Women in Kuwait have the full legal right to own and manage land and non-land assets under the Civil Code, which does not discriminate by sex with regards to a person’s legal capacity to own property and carry out commercial transactions.
  • The law allows women over 21 years of age to have access to financial services, including bank loans and enter into financial contracts, without permission from their male guardian. A wife’s financial assets remain separate from those of her husband after marriage.
  • The UNDP Kuwait office reports that, despite women previously being concentrated in the public sector, there are now a growing number of women entrepreneurs who are transforming the image of Kuwaiti women into that of successful entrepreneurs.


  • Under the 2010 Labour Act, women in Kuwait are protected from employment discrimination on the basis of gender, including with regards to pay under Article 26.
  • Still, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), women earn 66% of the pay for equal work in Kuwait. Moreover, a husband can prohibit his wife from working if he deems that work would negatively affect the family’s interests.
  • Pregnant women in Kuwait are entitled to 100% pay for 70 days of maternity leave, paid by the employer, under Article 24 of the 2010 Labour Act. The law provides that they must be given an equivalent position when they return from maternity leave. Nursing women are given two hours break time during official working hours under Article 25
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace is not recognised as a specific crime, even though it has been characterized by human rights groups as a widespread and underreported problem, and is of particular concern with regards to domestic workers.
  • Labour trafficking is a problem with regards to domestic workers (mainly women), a large number of who enter the country each year legally, but may subsequently be subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude by their employers


  • Article 88 of the Personal Status Act (1984) states that a wife may not be coerced into obedience, but the law does not explicitly prohibit domestic violence.

Political Participation

Women's Political Participation Year Total Source
Number of women in parliament (single/lower house) 2014 1/65 IPU database
% of women in parliament 2014 1.54%
Legislated quotas for women for single/ lower house (yes/no) 2014 NO The Quota Project database http://www.quotaproject.org/en/index.cfm


  • Women gained the right to vote and stand for election in Kuwait in 2005
  • Women’s rights activists were able to mount large-scale demonstrations in 2005 in support of women’s voting rights. Two months following these protests, the parliament agreed to reform the electoral law in order to grant women the vote
  • Two women's rights organisations—the Kuwait Federation of Women's Association and the Women's Cultural and Social Society—are accredited with the Government as representatives of Kuwaiti women and permitted to hold events that continue to advocate against the political exclusion of women.


  • There are no quotas for women in political office.


  • Since 2013 the unicameral Majiles Al-Ommah/ National Assembly has 1/65 (1.54%) female member. 50 members are directly elected and the other 15 appointed.
  • Since 2005, women voters have sometimes turned out to vote at higher rates than their male counterparts. However, they failed to win seats in the 2006 and 2008 elections. It was only in 2009 that the first women—four out of the 20 women who ran for office—were elected to the 50-member National Assembly.
  • In the February, 2012 elections, tribal leaders excluded women from tribal primaries, and no women were elected to the Assembly. However, three women won seats in the December 2012 elections.
  • In the most recent elections of July 2013, there were eight female compared to 321 male candidates, and two women were elected, amounting to a parliamentary share of 4%. Since cabinet members, who are appointed by the Emir, also enjoy voting rights in Kuwait’s national legislature, if one considers the two female ministers, women then comprise four of 65-members of the national legislature, amounting to a share of 6.2%
  • However, following petitions against the parliamentary election results, on 23 December 2013, the Constitutional Court cancelled the election of two MPs, including one woman, thereby reducing the number of women to three out of 65 members. A new Cabinet formed in January 2014 comprising only one woman, reducing the total number of women to two out of 65 members. On 15 May 2014, the National Assembly accepted the resignation of five members, including the sole woman member. No women were elected in the by-elections held on 26 June 2014. The National Assembly thus comprised only one woman (Cabinet member) out of 65 members.[6]


  • Women's rights issues are discussed in the media in Kuwait, with a wide range of liberal and conservative views represented.
  • However, according to the U.S. Department of State, discussions of the role of women in society and sexual problems are sometimes self-censored by the media. In October 2012, the Ministry of Information filed a lawsuit against talk show host Yusra. Mohammed, whose show addresses the problems of violence against women in Arab societies, sex tourism, and prostitution rings.

CEDAW and reservations[8]

  • Kuwait ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1994, with reservations to the following articles (9:2, 16, 29:1):
  • Article 9, paragraph 2: The Government of Kuwait reserves its right not to implement the provision contained in article 9, paragraph 2, of the Convention, inasmuch as it runs counter to the Kuwaiti Nationality Act, which stipulates that a child’s nationality shall be determined by that of his father.
  • Article 16 (f): The Government of the State of Kuwait declares that it does not consider itself bound by the provision contained in article 16 (f) inasmuch as it conflicts with the provisions of the Islamic Shari’ah , Islam being the official religion of the State.
  • Article 29: The Government of Kuwait declares that it is not bound by the provision contained in article 29, paragraph 1.

Economic Empowerment[9]

Women's Economic Participation Year Total Source
Labour Force Participation
Ratio of female to male labour force participation 2014 0.53 World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Labour force participation, female (% of total labour force) 2013 45% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Labour force participation, female (% of female population 15-64) 2012 44.7%
Labour force participation, male (% of male population 15-64) 2012 84.6%
Youth Employment
Ratio of female to male youth unemployment rate (% aged 15-24) 2012 57% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Unemployment, female (% of female labour force) 2014 4.9% World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Unemployment, male (% of male labour force) 2014 2.9%
Unemployment, total (% of total labour force) 2011 3.6% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Firms with female participation in ownership (% of firms) 2014 13% World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Sectors of Work
Women employed in non-agricultural sector (% of total non-agricultural employment) 2014 16% World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Vulnerable employment (% of female employment) 2012 1.4% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Vulnerable employment (% of male employment) 2012 2.7%
Employers, female (% of employment) 2012 0.8%
Employers, male (% of employment) 2012 1.1%


  • The labour force participation rate in 2011 was 44.2% for citizen women and 71.6% for non-national women,
  • Compared to 63.1% for citizen men and 95.5% for non-national men.
  • Moreover, according to the World Bank, the state provides public sector employees with "extremely generous" family subsidies, but only to husbands. Women are excluded from these subsidies even if only the wife works in the public sector[10]

Boards and Upper Management

  • Slightly more than half of public-sector employees are female, but women occupied only 40 of 518 executive posts in 2012.
  • Women (both national and non-national) comprised 14.5% of legislators, senior officials, and managers in 2011[11]

Sectors of Work

  • With the exception of a few professions, women are legally forbidden from working at night, as well as from working in the industrial sector, or working in occupations deemed hazardous to their health. However, they have been able to serve in the army since 1999 and in the police force since 2009. [12]

[1] World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014: http://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2014
[2] All information on legislation has been sourced from the OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index, 2014: http://genderindex.org/countries. Unless stated otherwise.
[3] http://genderindex.org/countries
[4] http://www.quotaproject.org/en/index.cfm
[5] http://www.ipu.org/parline-e/parlinesearch.asp
[6] http://genderindex.org/countries
[7] Ibid.
[8] https://cedaw.wordpress.com/2007/04/10/algeria-declarations-reservations-and-objections-to-cedaw/
[9] All information on economic empowerment has been sourced from the World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank: http://data.worldbank.org/data-catalog/gender-statistics. Unless stated otherwise.
[10] http://genderindex.org/countries
[11] http://genderindex.org/countries
[12] Ibid.