Congo, Rep.

Congo is not ranked in the 2012 SIGI due to missing data for one or more SIGI variables. However, the country note below sets out information and data relating to variables where this is available information.

In 2011, the Human Development Index for Congo was 0.533, placing Congo at 137 out of 187 countries with data. For the 2011 Gender Inequality Index, Congo received a score of 0.628, placing the country at 132 out of 146 countries with data. The World Economic Forum does not score Congo as part of the Global Gender Gap Index. 

Discriminatory Family Code: 

Note that in 2011, the government reported that it was considering reforms to its Family Code.[4]

The Congolese Family Code (article 128) sets the minimum legal age of marriage at 18 years for women and 21 years for men.[5]  The difference in age is justified by the government on the view that women acquire a sense of responsibility earlier than men. In addition to the minimum age of marriage, the Family Code provides for ‘pre-marriage’, where a man and woman promise to marry each other. ‘Pre-marriage’ provides for the possibility of cohabitation prior to official marriage, leading many couples to formalise their relationship through ‘pre-marriage’, rather than formal marriage. There is no minimum age for ‘pre-marriage’ in the law and the government notes that often the woman may be a minor.[6]  

Based on 2005 data, the United Nations reports that 20 percent of 15-19 year olds were married, divorced or widowed.[7]  Early pregnancy is also common amongst women in the Congo. According to a 2005 Demographic and Health survey, 21 percent of 15-19 married women were pregnant with their first child.[8]

Polygamy is legal in Congo, but the law also gives women the right to choose before marrying whether or not they are willing to agree to the practice. Husbands who later wish to marry a second wife must inform their first wives of this intended change of plans. If the first wife consents, the couple must revise their original marriage contract.[9]  A 2005 Demographic and Health Survey found that 20 percent of married women are in a polygamous union. The data suggests that there is no difference in the prevalence of polygamy between rural and urban areas.[10]

Legally, parental authority is shared equally by both spouses. They have the same rights and power to exercise authority in respect to raising their children. The law, however, provides that men are the heads of household and stipulates that they “exercise this function in the common interest of the marriage and of the children”. The wife can only be the head of the household in the situation where the husband is unable to exercise this role. As such, the law seems to contradict the notion of joint parental authority.[11]

With respect to divorce rights, the law provides women and men equal rights[12], however the US Department of State reports that adultery is illegal for women but not for men. Furthermore, the requirement to repay the bride price or dowry to the husband’s family poses a restriction on women’s ability to seek a divorce.[13]

Women’s inheritance rights within the family are dependent on the property arrangements associated with the type of marriage. If the couple chose to marry under “community of property”, the husband’s estate is divided such that the wife receives half and the other half is shared by his family and his children. If the marriage is based on a “separation of property” contract, the widow has no right to claim ownership of her deceased husband’s estate, but does retain the right to use the property. However, in practice, it is reported that women often lose all rights of inheritance upon the death of a spouse, especially in the context of traditional or common-law marriages.[14]  In 2005, only 15.8 percent of widows inherited the majority of assets after the death of their spouses.[15]

[4] CEDAW (2010) [5] United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2002a) p.135 [6] CEDAW (2002a) pp.134-135 [7] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) [8] Demographic Health Surveys (2005) [9] CEDAW (2002a) p. 137; CEDAW (2002b) para 39 [10] Demographic Health Surveys (2005) [11] CEDAW (2002a) pp. 136-137 [12] CEDAW (2002a) p.136 [13] US Department of State (2010) [14] CEDAW (2002b) para 41 [15] Chronic Poverty Research Centre (2011) p.29 

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

According to the US Department of State, rape - including spousal rape - is illegal in Congo.[16]  The penalty for rape is 10 years imprisonment. There is no specific legislation prohibiting domestic violence. It should be noted that in 2012 the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women concluded that it was concerned at the lack legal provisions prohibiting and criminalising sexual harassment, marital rape and female genital mutilation as well as the lack of appropriate sanctions for domestic violence.[17]  It should be noted that the government is currently considering draft legislation on violence against women.[18]

Despite the existence of legislation in some areas, under-reporting and ineffective enforcement pose significant hurdles to women’s access to justice following violence. The US Department of State reports that domestic violence is traditionally handled within the extended family or village, and only more extreme incidents are reported to the police, primarily due to the social stigma for the victim.[19]

Although there are no population-based prevalence studies, it is reported that rape and domestic violence is common in the Congo. For instance, the United Nations country team in 2008 reported that sexual violence committed by civilians was widespread. They reported that in the majority of cases (between 50 to 80 percent) the perpetrators knew their victims. Further, they reported that the majority of victims were young girls.[20]

In 2003, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women reported that the widespread rape during the armed conflict between 1998-1999 has generally raised awareness in the community of violence against women.[21]  However, UNICEF reported in 2009 that 76 percent of women aged 15–49 years consider a husband to be justified in hitting or beating his wife for if his wife burns the food, argues with him, goes out without telling him, neglects the children or refuses sexual relations.[22]

There is no specific legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM), however the Criminal Code prohibits bodily harm and injury.[23]  There is no prevalence data on FGM in the Congo and reports suggest that it is not widely practiced amongst the indigenous Congolese. However, it is reported that FGM may be practiced amongst some immigrant West African communities in the Congo.[24]

Having control over the timing and spacing of children is an important aspect of women’s physical integrity. In the Congo, abortion is treated as a criminal act. It is allowed only for therapeutic reasons to save the woman’s life.[25]  A 2005 Demographic Health Survey found that 44 percent of married women use contraception. However, only 13 percent of married women use modern forms of contraception. The data suggests that there remains reluctance amongst couple to discuss family planning with 100 percent of married women reporting never having discussed family planning with their spouse. Further, access to family planning appears to be a problem with 16 percent of married women reporting an unmet need for family planning.[26]

[16] US Department of State (2011) [17] CEDAW (2012) [18] United Nations General Assembly (2009) State report p.17 [19] US Department of State (2010) [20] United Nations General Assembly (2009) UN Compilation p.6 [21] United Nations Economic and Social Council (2003) p.40 [22] UNICEF (2009) [23] Inter-Parliamentary Union (2009) http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/fgm-prov-c.htm  [24] US Department of State (2010) [25] United Nations Population Division (2007) [26] Demographic Health Surveys (2005)  

Son Bias: 

Gender disaggregated data on rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for the Congo. According to UNICEF’s data, the rate of child labour amongst boys and girls is similar. However, there is a small gap between the primary school enrolment rates of boys and girls, indicating a slight preferential treatment of sons in access to education. According to UNICEF, based on 2008 data, 58 percent of boys are enrolled in primary school, compared to 52 percent of girls.[27]

The Central Intelligence Agency reports that the Congo has a male/female sex ratio for the total population of 0.99.[28]

There is no evidence to suggest that the Republic of Congo is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

[27] UNICEF (2009) [28] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)  

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Women in the Congo have access to land through three main channels: i) matrilineal or patrilineal filiations (most often, the head of the lineage is a man and the filiation patrilineal, but the head of lineage can choose to allocate the land to a woman); ii) marriage (at the husband’s request, the head of the lineage may allocate land to the wife); or iii) rent and purchase.[29]  Overall, their land holdings are limited. In 2002, the government reported that women accounted for 60 per cent of the agricultural workforce, but own only 25 per cent of agricultural land – usually in small holdings.[30]

There is no reported legal discrimination against women in regard to access to property other than land.[31]  However, as noted in the Family Code section, women’s rights to property more generally are tied to the type of marriage they enter into, where under a “separation of property” contract a widow has no right to claim ownership of her deceased husband’s estate, but can use the property. Under a “community of property” marriage, a widow would inherit half of her husband’s property. [32] However, the government reported that more work needed to be done to increase women’s awareness of their rights as they generally tended to follow the wishes of their husbands.[33]    

Although there is no reported legal discrimination against women in accessing credit, in 2007 the US Department of State reported that Congolese women experienced discrimination in accessing credit.[34]  Further, in 2002, the government reported that women struggled to access bank loans because they did not have the economic resources to meet the credit conditions of banks.[35]  However, it is reported that many local and international organisations have developed micro-credit programs to address this problem, and government ministries have also taken an active role in increasing women’s access to credit.[36]

[29] CEDAW (2002) p.127 [30] CEDAW (2002) p.127 [31] CEDAW (2002b) para 42 [32] CEDAW (2002b) para 41 [33] CEDAW (2002b) para 41 [34] US Department of State (2007) [35] CEDAW (2002) pp.127-128 [36] US Department of State (2007) 

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

Constitution upholds women’s right to freedom of movement. However, the law provides that in the event of disagreement between spouses, the husband has the right to decide the domicile of a married couple.[37]  The threat of violence also poses an obstacle to women’s freedom of movement.

Although the constitution provides for freedom of press, Freedom House reports that both this right is not respected by the government. However, non -governmental organisations generally operate without interference as long as they do not challenge decision-makers.[38]  There is no data on whether the restriction of these rights has a particular impact on women.

With respect to women’s participation in public life, the 2007 election resulted in women being elected to only 7 percent of lower house positions and 13 percent of upper house positions.[39]

Women in the Congo have equal rights to paid employment and equal pay. Women also have a right to paid maternity leave of 15 weeks, to be paid at 100 percent of wages.[40]

[37] CEDAW (2002) p.132 [38] Freedom House (2010) [39] Inter-Parliamentary Union (2010) [40] International Labour Organisation (2010) 

Background: 

Upon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A short civil war in 1997 was followed by civil unrest until a peace agreement in 2003. The political and economic situation of the Congo is also influenced by the influx of refugees from neighbouring countries.[1]  The World Bank classifies the Congo as a lower middle income country.[2]

Women’s position in the Congo has been affected by the conflict and persistence of discriminatory practices stemming from the dual legal system. Women in the Congo remain unequal to men in the main aspects of economic, social and public life. 

The Republic of Congo’s Constitution of 8 December 1963 guarantees equality of women and men.[3]  Congo became a party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1982.

[1] Central Intelligence Agency (2010) [2] World Bank (n.d.) [3] Article 8, Republic of the Congo, The New Constitution (2002)

Sources: 

Central Intelligence Agency (2010) The World Factbook: Congo, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cf.html, accessed 13 October 2010.

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2018.html, accessed 29 February 2012.

Chronic Poverty Research Centre (2011) Widowhood and asset inheritance in sub-Saharan Africa: empirical evidence from 15 countries, available at http://www.chronicpoverty.org/uploads/publication_files/WP183%20Peterman.pdf, accessed 7 March 2012.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2010) Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Sixth periodic reports of States parties: Congo, CEDAW/C/COG/6, Geneva.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women CEDAW (2012) Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Congo, CEDAW/C/COG/CO/6, Geneva.

Demographic Health Survey (2005) Congo: Standard DHS, 2005 – online data, available at http://www.statcompiler.com/index.cfm, accessed 31 October 2010.

Freedom House (2010) Freedom in the World: Congo Country Report, available at http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=363&year=2010&country=7953, accessed 1 November 2010.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) (2010) Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, available at http://www.ilo.org/dyn/travail/travmain.home, accessed 31 October 2010.

Inter-Parliamentary Union (2009) Parliamentary Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women, Female Genital Mutilation, Legislation and other national provisions: Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, available at http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/fgm-prov-c.htm, accessed 1 November 2010,

Inter-Parliamentary Union (2010) Parline Database: Congo, available at http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm, accessed 1 November 2010.

UNICEF (2009) State of the World’s Children – online data, available at http://www.unicef.org/sowc09/statistics/statistics.php, accessed 1 November 2010.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2002), Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: Congo, Combined Initial, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of States Parties, CEDAW/C/COG/1-5, CEDAW, New York, NY.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women CEDAW (2002b), Summary Record of the 607th Meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.607, CEDAW, New York, NY.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women CEDAW (2003), Summary Record of the 606th Meeting, CEDAW/C/SR.606, CEDAW, New York, NY.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2003) Press release, WOM/1383, Republic of Congo Responds to Questions Raised in Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee, available at http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2003/wom1383.doc.htm, accessed 1 November 2010.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2008) World Marriage Data 2008, available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/WMD2008/Main.html, accessed 10 October 2010.

United Nations Development Programme (2010) Human Development Report 2010 Congo, online edition, available at  http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/COG.html, accessed 1 November 2010.

United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf, accessed 29 February 2012.

United Nations Economic and Social Council (2003), Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women, E/CN.4/2003/75/Add.1, UN, New York, NY.

United Nations General Assembly (2009a) Human Rights Council, Working Group on Universal Periodic Review, National Report Submitted in accordance with paragraph 15 (a) of the annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1: Congo, A/HRC/WG.6/5/COG/1, Geneva.

United Nations General Assembly (2009b) Human Rights Council, Working Group on Universal Periodic Review, Compilation Prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, In Accordance with Paragraph 15(b) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1: Congo, A/HRC/WG.6/5/COG/2, Geneva.

United Nations Population Division (2007) World Abortion Policies 2007, available at http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/2007_Abortion_Policies_Chart/2007_WallChart.pdf, accessed 13 October 2010.

US Department of State (2007)Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Congo, available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78729.htm, accessed 1 November 2010.  

US Department of State (2010)Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Congo, available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/af/135948.htm, accessed 1 November 2010.

World Bank (n.d.) Online data: Republic of Congo, available at http://data.worldbank.org/country/congo-republic, accessed at 20 November 2010.

Data
Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
108
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
0.7296
Legal Age of Marriage: 
1
Early Marriage: 
0.199
Parental Authority: 
1
Inheritance: 
0.75
Data
Violence Against Women (laws): 
0.583333
Reproductive Integrity: 
0.162
Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence: 
0.757
Data
Son Bias Rank 2012: 
30
Son Bias Value 2012: 
0.440929
Missing Women: 
0
Fertility Preferences: 
0.4763
Data
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
65
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
0.5071
Access To Land: 
0.5
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
0.5
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
0.5
Data
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
96
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
0.7534
Access To Public Space: 
0.5
Political Participation: 
0.095694
Political Quotas: 
1