Gender Gap Index[1]

Gender Gap Index 2014
Overall Economic Participation Political Empowerment Educational Attainment
Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score
135 0.592 133 0.432 141 0.010 106 0.952
(Rank: out of 142 countries) (Score: 0.00 = inequality, 1.00 = equality)


Family Code/ Personal Status Law

  • The Lebanese legal system is based primarily on the French and Egyptian legal codes. Personal status laws govern matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance and vary according to religious community. More specifically, Shari’ah courts have jurisdiction over personal status issues for the Muslim community (separated into Sunni and Shiite hearings), while the different Christian denominations use ecclesiastical courts.
  • All of the personal status codes contain discriminatory measures against women and while there have been efforts on the part of lawmakers to introduce a unified civil status (the most recent of which in 2010), this has so far not met with success


  • Legal age of marriage varies across the different personal status codes, but all religious groups allow girls under the age of 18 to marry. Recognized marriageable ages for women range from as young as 9 among Sunni and Shiite Muslims as long as approval is granted, to 12.5 among member of the Jewish denomination, and 14 years old among the Syrian Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox.
  • In terms of early marriage it is, however, no longer customary that young girls marry, and the UN reports that in 2007, only 3.4% of women age 15-19 were married, divorced, or widowed
  • Although some personal status codes assign rights and duties equally to both spouses during married life (e.g. the Catholic and the Greek Orthodox personal codes), the Muslim personal codes designate the husband as the head of the family and assign parental authority to fathers.
  • Lebanese women married to foreign spouses cannot pass their nationality to their children or spouse. This particularly affects women married to Palestinian refugees
  • Polygamy is permissible among Sunni and Shiite Muslims, following provisions in Shari’ah law. Muslim men from these sects are allowed to take up to four wives, provided they can support all wives financially and treat them all fairly and equally.


  • Under the Muslim personal status codes, it is much easier for men than women to obtain a divorce, although all divorces must be registered with the court in order to be legally recognized.
  • Men have the right to repudiate (divorce unilaterally) their wives, whereas women can only apply for a divorce under a certain set of conditions (e.g. the husband’s desertion, or illness)
  • Catholic sects prohibit divorce, but marriages can be annulled for a wide range of reasons, including domestic violence
  • Among most religious groups, women are granted custody of the children upon divorce, although in Muslim communities, fathers retain legal authority and decision-making power, even if the mother has physical custody. In some cases, custody is transferred back to the father when children reach a certain age.

Resources and Assets

  • According to the Lebanese Constitution (Art. 7), women (married and unmarried) have the same rights as men to conclude contracts and own and administer property, including land and non-land assets. Within marriage, regardless of religious affiliation, each spouse has the right to own and administer property separately and independently (the default marital property regime is separation of property).
  • However, in practice, husbands and male family members often heavily influence women with regard to the administration of property, as well as income and other financial assets.
  • Limitations also arise from the fact that many women remain unaware of their economic and legal rights. This is particularly true in rural areas. Control over financial assets seems to be closely linked to education and employment status
  • With regards to access to financial services, women are legally entitled to open a bank account, access to bank loans and can enter into financial contracts, but experience some limitations in practice
  • Inheritance laws differ between Muslims and non-Muslims. Islamic law provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares. Muslim women may inherit but generally a smaller share that a man’s entitlement
  • The Civil Law of Inheritance (1959) for non-Muslims establishes that men and women shall be treated equally and receive the same shares of inheritance
  • Most personal status laws prohibit inter-faith bequests and inheritance


  • While there are no laws mandating non-discrimination based on gender in hiring, in 2000 the Labour Code was amended to ensure equal pay for women.
  • Despite this change, there appears to be a significant wage gap between men and women, more pronounced in the private sector.
  • According to the UN Population Fund, while the labour law does not specifically prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, male and female employees do have the right to resign without prior notice in the event that an indecent offense is committed toward the former or a family member by the employer or his/her representative.


  • Lebanon’s Parliament passed the Law on Protection of Women and Family Members from Domestic Violence on April 1, 2014, which defines sexual harassment as 'an act, act of omission, or threat of an act committed by any family member against one or more family members (...) related to one of the crimes stipulated in this law, and that results in killing, harming, or physical, psychological, sexual, or economic harm'.
  • Before that, there was no legislation in place protecting women from domestic violence.
  • Most controversially, the law recognizes marital rape, although it does not classify the latter as a crime, but as an offence. As of this writing the law has yet to be adopted.

Political Participation

Women's Political Participation Year Total Source
Number of women in parliament (single/lower house) 2014 4/128 IPU database
% of women in parliament 2014 3.12%
Legislated quotas for women for single/ lower house (yes/no) 2014 NO The Quota Project database http://www.quotaproject.org/en/index.cfm


  • Article 8 of the Lebanese Constitution asserts the equality of rights and duties of all citizens, regardless of gender, and in contrast to neighbouring countries, Shari’ah law is not held up as the main source of legislation.


  • Whilst there are quotas for religious groups in each constituency, there is currently no quota for female representatives at either the national or sub-national level.
  • Attempts have been made to introduce a 30% gender quota as part of the electoral law but this has yet to be implemented in parliamentary elections. According to a 2009 survey carried out by IFES / IWPR, most women (67%) and men (65%) were in favour of the introduction of a gender quota in the national assembly. Of those against, the most common reason cited (50%) was that quotas are unfair and against the principle of equal opportunity, although 18% believed that ‘women have no place in politics’  [5]


  • Unicameral Majilis Al-Nuwwab/ National Assembly
  • Last election 2009 (the 4 year mandate has been repeatedly extended, now until 20 June 2017): 4/128 (3.12%) female representatives.


  • Freedom of expression is respected in Lebanon, and there is a vibrant media scene. While there are some prominent female journalists in Lebanon, women for the most part remain under-represented in media structures, and representations of women in the media most typically portray women in gender-stereotypical ways. In addition, vaguely worded laws have been employed to ban critical reporting on Syria, foreign leaders, the military, the judiciary, and the presidency, and in some cases journalists have faced threats, attacks, and detentions on the part of the government.

CEDAW and reservations[8]

  • Lebanon ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) on April 21, 1997.

  • Upon ratification, Lebanon made reservations to the following CEDAW articles: 9:2, 16, and 29:  The Government of the Lebanese Republic enters reservations regarding article 9 (2), and article 16 (1) (c) (d) (f) and (g) (regarding the right to choose a family name).  In accordance with paragraph 2 of article 29, the Lebanese Republic declares that it does not consider itself bound by the provisions of paragraph 1 of that article.

Economic Empowerment[9]

Women's Economic Participation




Labour Force Participation

Ratio of female to male labour force participation



World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Labour force participation, female (% of total labour force)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank

Labour force participation, female (% of female population 15-64)



Labour force participation, male (% of male population 15-64)



Youth Employment

Ratio of female to male youth unemployment rate (% aged 15-24)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank


Unemployment, female (% of female labour force)



World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Unemployment, male (% of male labour force)



Unemployment, total (% of total labour force)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank


Firms with female participation in ownership (% of firms)



World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Boards and Upper Management

Percentage of firms with a female top manager (%)



World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Sectors of Work

Agriculture (% of female employment)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank

Agriculture (% of male employment)



Women employed in non-agricultural sector (% of total non-agricultural employment)



World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Industry (% of female employment)



World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank

Industry (% of male employment)



Services (% of female employment)



Services (% of male employment)



Employers, female (% of employment)



Employers, male (% of employment)




  • Despite high female literacy rates and net school enrolment ratios, Lebanese women’s economic participation is low. According to the OECD Gender Index, the labour force participation rate for women is 22% compared to 72% for men.

[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] SWMENA Project, Lebanon: Attitudes towards Policy Change Topic Brief (2011) p.4
[6] http://www.ipu.org/parline-e/parlinesearch.asp
[7] http://genderindex.org/countries
[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.