Gender Gap Index[1]

Gender Gap Index 2014
Overall Economic Participation Political Empowerment Educational Attainment
Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score Rank Score
139 0.577 142 0.297 126 0.066 101 0.967
(Rank: out of 142 countries) (Score: 0.00 = inequality, 1.00 = equality)


Family Code/ Personal Status Law

  • The legal system in the Syrian Arab Republic is based on French, Ottoman and Islamic Law. The Shari’ah Personal Status Law (PSL) regulates family affairs (including inheritance, marriage, and divorce and child custody) for the majority of the population, namely the Sunni, Shiite and Alawite Muslims.


  • Article 16 of the Personal Status Law sets the legal age of marriage in Syria at 17 years for women and 18 years for men, but judges may authorise marriages at younger ages (Art. 18): as low as 13 years for girls and 15 years for boys
  • Rates of early marriage are reportedly high, particularly as displaced and refugee families endeavour to marry off young daughters as a safeguard against rape, a means of covering up the latter, or in response to economic pressures
  • Syrian personal status law also discriminates in the area of parental authority, granting fathers more rights than mothers.
  • Husbands/fathers are deemed to be the head of household


  • Muslim men can repudiate (divorce unilaterally) their wives, but women do not have the same right.
  • Women may only seek a divorce according to a narrow set of criteria
  • In the event of divorce, Muslim women are usually granted custody of sons until they are 13 and daughters until they are 15 (although the father retains guardianship), and lose custody if they remarry

Resources and Assets

  • There are no legal restrictions on women’s access to or ownership of land or non-land assets. However, women’s ownership remains low
  • The law does not make a distinction between men and women’s access to financial services, including bank loans and credit
  • Shari’ah law provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares. A woman may inherit from her father, mother, husband or children, and under certain conditions, from other family members. However, her share is generally smaller than a man’s entitlement


  • The 2010 Labour Law (Art. 75) mandates equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value, but there is no law mandating non-discrimination based on gender in hiring.
  • According to the Labour Law, after 6 consecutive months of service to the same employer, pregnant women are entitled up paid maternity leave, to be financed by the employer. The length of maternity leaves depends on whether or not they already have other children, and varies from 120 for the first childbirth to 75 days for the third childbirth (Art. 121). All women are barred from working at night (except in certain professions, e.g. healthcare) and in professions deemed injurious to their health or morals.
  • According to the Personal Status Law (Article 73) married women require their husband’s permission to work, and therefore to enter into economic contracts and activities


  • There is no legislation in place specifically addressing domestic violence in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Political Participation

Women's Political Participation Year Total Source
Number of women in parliament (unicameral) 2014 30/250 IPU database
% of women in parliament 2014 12%
Legislated quotas for women for single/ lower house (yes/no) 2014 NO The Quota Project database


  • The Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic grants equal rights to all its citizens in article 25, regardless of gender, and article 45 states that women are guaranteed ‘all the opportunities that enable them to participate fully and effectively in political, social, cultural, and economic life’.
  • Nonetheless, individual laws contain discriminatory provisions, and no legislation specifically prohibits gender-based discrimination.
  • Women have had the same voting rights as men since 1949,and the same right to stand for election since 1953


  • There are no quotas at the national or sub-national level to promote women’s political participation


  • As of 2012, the unicameral Majilis Al-Chaab/ People’s Assembly has 30/250 (12%) female members (directly elected)
  • The May 2012 elections followed a revision to the Constitution, adopted by referendum in February. The revision removed a clause making the Baath Party the leader of State and society, paving the way for multi-party elections. However, the Baath Party, in power since 1949, remained predominant.
  • Parliamentary elections took place in the context of open rebellion against President Bashar Al-Assad's regime. Major opposition parties boycotted the elections. The National Unity alliance, supporting the President and his Baath Party, took 183 of the 250 seats at stake. Most of the remaining seats went to independent pro-government candidates.


  • The government has continued to block efforts on the part of journalists to form a regional Arab media association and access to information is generally made difficult by both opposition and regime forces; as many as 28 journalists were killed in 2013 and many more kidnapped or arrested.
  • Private newspapers have been allowed to operate since 2001, and it is reported that these do on occasion discuss gender issues such as domestic violence or honour killings.

CEDAW and reservations[7]

  • Syria ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2003, with the following reservations:
  • Subject to reservations to article 2;
  • article 9, paragraph 2, concerning the grant of a woman’s nationality to her children;
  • article 15, paragraph 4, concerning freedom of movement and of residence and domicile;
  • article 16, paragraph 1 (c), (d), (f) and (g), concerning equal rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution with regard to guardianship, the right to choose a family name, maintenance and adoption; article 16, paragraph 2, concerning the legal effect of the betrothal and the marriage of a child, inasmuch as this provision is incompatible with the provisions of the Islamic Shari’ah; and article 29, paragraph 1, concerning arbitration between States in the event of a dispute.
  • The accession of the Syrian Arab Republic to this Convention shall in no way signify recognition of Israel or entail entry into any dealings with Israel in the context of the provisions of the Convention

Economic Empowerment[8]

Women's Economic Participation Year Total Source
Labour Force Participation
Ratio of female to male labour force participation 2014 0.19 World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Labour force participation, female (% of total labour force) 2013 14% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Labour force participation, female (% of female population 15-64) 2012 14.1%
Labour force participation, male (% of male population 15-64) 2012 75.9%
Youth Employment
Ratio of female to male youth unemployment rate (% aged 15-24) 2012 266.2% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Unemployment, female (% of female labour force) 2014 22.5% World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Unemployment, male (% of male labour force) 2014 5.7%
Unemployment, total (% of total labour force) 2012 8.4% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Firms with female participation in ownership (% of firms) 2014 14% World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Boards and Upper Management
Firms with female top managers (%) 2014 23% World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Sectors of Work
Agriculture (% of female employment) 2011 22.2% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Agriculture (% of male employment) 2011 13.2%
Women employed in non-agricultural sector (% of total non-agricultural employment) 2014 16% World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014
Industry (% of female employment) 2011 9.2% World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank
Industry (% of male employment) 2011 36.1%
Services (% of female employment) 2011 68.6%
Services (% of male employment) 2011 50.7%
Vulnerable employment (% of female employment) 2010 15.9%
Vulnerable employment (% of male employment) 2010 35.4%
Employers, female (% of employment) 2010 1%
Employers, male (% of employment) 2010 4.9%


  • According to the OECD Gender Index, the formal labour force participation rate for women in the Syrian Arab Republic is only 13%
  • Syrian women have seen their economic opportunities improve in recent years, with greater numbers of women entering the workforce. But they still face various degrees of inequality in the social sphere, as well as potential condemnation if they are overly visible and active in the public sphere.
  • Economic empowerment and employment opportunities for both men and women have been significantly affected by the current conflict.

Sectors of Work

  • Many women are either employed in agriculture or the informal section, meaning that they receive no regular salary and are not protected by employment legislation or social security benefits. [9]

[1] World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report
[3]All information on legislation has been sourced from the OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index,
2014: Unless stated otherwise.
[9] All information on economic empowerment has been sourced from the World Bank Gender Statistics Data Bank: Unless stated otherwise.