Deep-rooted prejudice still stands in the way of gender equality worldwide, but more resolute governmental action can make a difference, says new report


Despite an increase in legal reforms promoting greater gender equality, deeply entrenched gender norms continue to discriminate women and girls around the world, according to the 2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) Global Report. It was launched today in the context of the OECD’s celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day, and provides policy recommendations to help governments deliver on their commitments to promote gender equality.

Since its first edition in 2009, the OECD Development Centre’s SIGI has been measuring the gaps that discriminatory laws, social norms and practices create between women and men in terms of rights and opportunities.

The 2019 report -which includes 180 country notes and ranks 120 countries- shows encouraging progress: since the previous edition in 2014, fifteen countries have enacted legislation to criminalise domestic violence; fifteen have eliminated legal exceptions that allow underage girls (less than 18) to marry; eight have introduced legal measures to promote gender-balanced representation in elected public offices; and paid maternity leave is now guaranteed in all but two countries.

Similarly, policies aiming to redress gender imbalances are starting to successfully roll back some social discriminatory norms. For example, social acceptance of domestic violence is becoming less common: while 50% of the world’s female population said in 2012 they thought it was acceptable under certain circumstances, the proportion who expressed that view had dropped to 35% in 2014, and to 27% in 2018. In Sudan the proportion of women who said they supported female genital mutilation (FGM) declined from 27% in 2014 to 18% in 2018.

However, progress remains slow due to interrelated factors like legal discriminations, weak implementation of laws, discriminatory customary laws and social norms. In many countries, political commitments, legal reforms and gender-sensitive programmes are still not being translated into real changes for women and girls. On a global level, the prevalence of girl child marriage has stagnated at 16%, the proportion of women who have suffered intimate partner violence at least once in their lives has remained unchanged since 2012, and fewer than 24% of parliamentary seats are occupied by women, only two points better than in 2014.

SIGI 2019 recommends governments should take three types of action to accelerate progress:

  • Translate international conventions into national legal frameworks. This would abolish discriminatory laws, notably on women’s workplace rights and reproductive autonomy, and mend legal loopholes that allow negative practices such as early marriage to continue. Where statutory law coexists alongside customary, traditional and religious laws and practices, policy makers should seek toalign all frameworks at the national and sub-national levels.
  • Implement laws more forcefully and increase the number of prosecutions and convictions, while inviting community leaders and citizens to join in publicly recognising the discriminatory nature of harmful norms and practices. Governments also need to involve teachers, health professionals, justice, police officers, the media, providers of development co-operation, foundations, the private sector, etc. Social media and other campaigns started by citizens are opportunities to amplify community dialogue and promote change.
  • Report publicly and regularly on progress towards gender equality, even when objectives are not met. Governments should define clear indicators and rigorously evaluate the impact of their initiatives. In that context, officials may use the SIGI data on legal discrimination, which the United Nations has officially endorsed as a source for monitoring SDG 5.1.1 on “whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex”.


For more information on the SIGI and to access its 180 country notes, visit:

Access the Wikigender, online collaborative platform, now available in Spanish, English and French:

 Media queries should be directed to the OECD Development Centre’s Press Office (email:; tel: +33 145 24 82 96).


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