Cote d'Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 61 out of 86 in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The country was ranked 58 out of 102 in the 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index.

The Human Development Index (HDI) for Côte d’Ivoire is 0.400, which places the country in 170th   position out of 187 countries for which data is available. The Gender Inequality Index rating is 0.655, placing country at 136 out of 146 countries for which the GII has been measured.  The World Economic Forum ranked the country 130th out of 135 countries with a score of 0.5773.

Discriminatory Family Code: 

There is no Family Code in Côte d’Ivoire; rather, matters pertaining to marriage and the family are covered by articles included in the Civil Code.[11]  The state recognises only marriages that are performed by a registry.[12]  Legally, the minimum age for marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men.[13] Up-to-date data on the incidence of early marriage is not available, but a 2004 United Nations report estimated that 25 per cent of girls between 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed (based on DHS data for 1998-9),[14] while a report published by UNICEF a year later which drew on the same data stated that 33.2 per cent of women aged 20-24 had been married before they turned 18.[15] Of those, 72 per cent had no education at all, indicating a clear link between early marriage and other social institutions which limit girls’ opportunities to access and benefit from education.[16] 

Polygamy is outlawed under Article 2 of the Civil Code, and has been since 1964.[17]  According to UNICEF, in 1998 34.8 per cent of women over all, and 23.5 per cent of girls aged 15-19 were in polygynous unions.[18]

Under Article 58 of the Civil Code, parental authority is legally the right of fathers, who are regarded as the heads of households and have sole paternal rights over their children; mothers however have an equal responsibility to ensure the moral and material wellbeing of the family.[19]  Women have the right to divorce, and repudiation is outlawed under the Civil Code.[20] In case of divorce, custody of the children is generally awarded to the spouse who obtained the divorce.[21]  The divorce law also discriminates against women, providing that women must wait at least two years before remarrying, while no time requirement is set for men.[22]

Under the Civil Code, widows have the right to inherit property; in practice, inheritance practices vary across different districts. In some areas, widows have the right to remain on their husband’s property and continue to work the land, in others, they are expected to return to their natal homes.[23] Civil law protects the right children and their descendants, regardless of gender, to inherit from parents, grandparents or other relatives, but again in practice, inheritance customs vary.[24]  Some communities are matrilineal, but even here, property passes from the mother to the son rather than the daughter.[25] 

[11] FAO (n.d.) [12] FAO (n.d.) [13] UNData (n.d.) [14] UN Fertility Report (2003) p.84 [15] UNICEF (2005c) p.32 [16] UNICEF (2005c) p.16 [17] FAO (n.d.) [18] UNICEF (2005c) p.38 [19] FAO (n.d.) [20] FAO (n.d.) [21] CEDAW (2010) p.92 [22] CEDAW (2010) p.14 [23] OCDE. 2007. Foncier, transformation de l’agriculture et conflits en Afrique de l’Ouest: enjeux régionaux soulevés par les cas de la Sierra Leone, du Liberia et de la Côte  d’Ivoire.  Revue historique. In FAO (n.d.) [24] FAO (n.d.) [25] FAO (n.d.)

Restricted Physical Integrity: 

Any consideration of the physical integrity of Ivoirian women and girls must take into account the impact of the civil conflict. Ongoing instability in the country contributes towards a generalised culture of violence and impunity, meaning that the laws that are in place to protect women and girls from violence are ineffective.[26]  More than one out of ten women in Côte d’Ivoire has been a victim of at least one of the known forms of abuse.[27]

Domestic violence is not specifically penalised under Ivoirian law.[28]  No accurate prevalence rates are available, but it is generally considered to be widespread.[29] Courts and police view domestic violence as a problem to be addressed within the family, and this, along with the severe social stigma and blame that women victims of domestic violence face, means that few are willing to report incidents.[30]  Human Rights Watch reports that the ongoing instability and poverty brought about by the conflict has left women more vulnerable to domestic violence, with for instance women locked into abusive relationships with men upon whom they are forced to depend for physical and economic survival.[31] The Ministry of Family and Social Affairs offers some assistance to victims of gender-based violence, but this is limited. There is a small number of shelters available for victims of violence, run by the government and by NGOs.[32]

The law prohibits rape and imposes prison terms of five to ten years, although it does not recognise spousal rape: by marrying, women are presumed to have consented to sexual intercourse, even if the union was at an early age and/or forced.[33] But under customary law, punishments for sexual violence are minimised, and may undermine protection for rape victims.[34] In the context of the civil conflict and the post-conflict reconstruction period, it has been virtually impossible for these laws to be implemented, and perpetrators of sexual violence have not been prosecuted in either the rebel or government controlled areas of the country (in fact, an amnesty was granted in 2007 to all involved in the conflict[35]), fuelling a climate of impunity that encourages further violence.[36]

Throughout the conflict, rape and sexual violence were used as weapons by both sides, in order to humiliate victims’ families and communities.[37] Rebel forces inflicted horrific acts of sexual violence on women and girls, including rape, gang rape, forced incest, sexual torture, and sexual slavery.[38] Government forces were also responsible for acts of violence against the civilian population in the areas under their control, including acts of sexual violence.[39] Reliable statistics are not available as to the number of women and girls subjected to sexual violence during the conflict, but the consistency of testimonies and reports gathered by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International indicates that such experiences were widespread.[40] A study undertaken in 2005 by an international NGO and reported by Human Rights Watch found that 58 per cent of victims of sexual assault interviewed had been blamed or rejected by their families following the assault.[41] This reinforces the shame that many rape victims themselves feel, contributing to the fact that victims are extremely unwilling to push for the perpetrators to be punished.[42] It also reflects the low status of women and girls. Very limited medical or psychological support services are available to women who have experienced sexual violence, and those that are available are provided by local and national NGOs.[43]

Legislation introduced in 1998 made it illegal to practise female genital mutilation (FGM) in Côte d’Ivoire[44] and established criminal penalties — imprisonment for up to five years and/or fines —for those who perform the act.[45]  Drawing on data from the DHS survey in 1998-9 (more recent data is not available), UNICEF estimates that 45 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 have undergone some form of FGM.[46]  The incidence varies significantly according to religion, ethnicity, region and educational status.[47] Rates of FGM are higher among Muslim women (79 per cent) than Christian women (16 per cent),[48] and prevalence rates are higher in rural areas (48.4 per cent) than urban areas (39.1 per cent).[49] Women who had no education were significantly more likely to have undergone FGM than women with primary or secondary education (60.9 per cent against 27.4 per cent and 16.9 per cent respectively).[50] The practice does seem to be decreasing, with 24 per cent of women who had undergone the procedure reporting that their eldest daughter had also been cut.[51] That said, 30 per cent of women questioned in the 1998-9 DHS felt that the tradition should continue, with reasons given including custom and tradition (68 per cent), and to improve the daughter’s prospects of marriage (36 per cent).[52] Women with some education voiced far less support for the practice (14 per cent) than women who had no education (45 per cent).[53]  Combined with lower prevalence rates among women who have primary or secondary education, this indicates the link between this practice and other social institutions that restrict women’s and girls’ right to access to education. The most recent data available reports that 36.4 percent of women aged 15-49 years have undergone female genital mutilation.[54]  UNICEF reports that the age at which the procedure is carried out has also fallen.[55]  

Côte d’Ivoire is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked into forced labour and forced prostitution.[56] Human Rights Watch judges that the forced displacement and poverty caused by the ongoing conflict has been a contributing factor in increasing the number of women and children trafficked into forced prostitution, or forced into positions where they have to barter sex in exchange for protection, or for food.[57]

Since the repeal of an earlier French law that banned ‘incitement to abortion and contraceptive propaganda’ in 1981, women have the right to access contraception under Ivoirian law.[58] The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) considers that 13 per cent of women in Côte d’Ivoire use some form of contraception, while 8 per cent use modern methods (such as condoms, the pill, or injectable contraceptives).[59] Even before the conflict, access to reproductive and other health services was limited by uneven geographical spread of facilities, poor standards of patient care, dilapidated equipment and buildings, and a ‘haphazard mix of traditional medicine and modern medicine’.[60] This access has been further restricted by the conflict, as many health facilities have been destroyed. This is of particular concern given the high rates of sexual violence, given that it means that women and girls cannot access emergency contraception and treatment for sexually transmitted disease. Women in rural areas often do not even have access to basic health services, or cannot afford to travel to clinics.[61] Abortion is illegal in Côte d’Ivoire under the criminal code, except to save the pregnant woman’s life.[62]   

[26] Amnesty International (2007) p.2 [27] IMF (2009) p.59 [28] ECOCSOC (2003) p. 41 [29] Amnesty International (2007); ECOSOC (2003) p.41; Human Rights Watch (2007) [30] ECOSOC (2003) p.41; US State Department (2007) [31] Human Rights Watch (2007) pp.83-85 [32] US State Department (2007) [33] US State Department (2007); ECOSOC (2003) p.40 [34] Human Rights Watch (2007) p.114 [35] Freedom House (2010) [36] Human Rights Watch (2007) p.98, 102, 108; Amnesty International (2007) p. 20; Amnesty International (2009) p.117 [37] Amnesty International (2007) p.6 [38] Human Rights Watch (2007) p.19, 26-49; Amnesty International (2007) p.1 [39] Human Rights Watch (2007) p.19; Amnesty International (2007) p.1[40] Human Rights Watch (2007) p.21; Amnesty International (2007) p.1 [41] Human Rights Watch (2007) p.94; see also Amnesty International (2007) pp.34 [42] Human Rights Watch (2007) p. 101 [43] Human Rights Watch (2007) pp.96-99; Amnesty International (2007) p.32-33 [44] UNICEF (2005b) p.29 [45] ECOSOC (2003) p.41 [46] UNICEF (2005b) p.4; UNICEF (2007) p.134 [47] UNICEF (2005a) pp.9-12 [48] UNICEF (2005a) p.10 [49] UNICEF (2005a) p.32 [50] UNICEF (2005a) p.33 [51] UNICEF (2005a) p.3, 6-8 [52] UNICEF (2005a) p.44 [53] UNICEF (2005a) p.20 [54] Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey (2006) p.116 [55] UNICEF (2005a) p.7 [56] CIA (2010) [57] Human Rights Watch (2007) pp.83-84 [58] Center for Reproductive Rights (2003) p.122 [59] UNFPA (2010) p.95 [60] Center for Reproductive Rights (2003) p.117 [61] Human Rights Watch (2007) p.95 [62] Center for Reproductive Rights (2003) p.122

Son Bias: 

Gender disaggregated data regarding rates of infant mortality and early childhood nutrition are not available for Côte d’Ivoire.[63] There is, however, a significant discrepancy in primary and secondary enrolment rates for boys and girls, indicating pronounced son preference in terms of parents deciding which children to send to school.

The male/female sex ratio for the total population in 2012 is 1.03.[64] 

There is no evidence to suggest that Côte d’Ivoire is a country of concern in relation to missing women.

[63] UNPD_World Population Prospects_2006 (International estimate) – downloaded at (accessed 21 October 2010). [64] Central Intelligence Agency (2012)

Restricted Resources and Entitlements: 

Under the Civil Code, Ivorian women and men have equal land ownership rights.[65]  But in practice, under customary law, land cannot be registered to a woman.[66] 

According to the Civil Code, there is no gender discrimination regarding access to property other than land. This right is, however, limited under the option of “marriage with community of property” which considers husbands to be the head of the household and gives them the authority to manage assets.[67]

Access to bank loans is difficult for women, not because of legal discrimination but because they are unable to meet the lending criteria established by banks, such as a title to a house or production of a profitable cash crop.[68]  Some banks also require married women to secure their husband’s approval for loans.[69]

[65] FAO (n.d.) [66] Koné, Mariatou (2006).’Foncier rural, citoyenneté et cohésion sociale en Côte d’Ivoire: la pratique du tutorat dans la sous-préfecture de Gboguhé’, Institut d’Ethno-Sociologie.Université de Cocody (Abidjan), in FAO (n.d.) [67] FAO (n.d.) [68] US State Department (2008) [69] Freedom House (2010) p.11

Restricted Civil Liberties: 

There are no legal restrictions on women’s freedom of movement in Côte d’Ivoire, but years of civil war have affected freedom of movement for the entire population, and the threat and / or fear of sexual violence effectively limits women’s and girls’ freedom of movement.[70]

On the whole, the media in Côte d’Ivoire is relatively free, as long as journalists avoid taboo issues such as oil and the cocoa industry. The media still suffer the consequences of the country’s fragile political situation, being banned from taking photos without permission of the rebels in the northern half of the country or of the government in the southern half.[71]

Freedom of assembly and association are both guaranteed by the Constitution, and people have the right to form unions.[72] In practice, demonstrations have been violently suppressed in recent years.[73]

Women are underrepresented in the country’s National Assembly, as only 8.9 per cent of parliamentarians elected in 2000 (the last time elections could be held) were women (18 out of 225).[74] The county’s first women presidential candidate announced her candidacy prior to the postponed 2009 elections.[75] Data is not available on the number of women active in civil society organisations, however women’s rights groups have been at the forefront of campaigns to eradicate FGM and child marriage, and to bring those responsible for sexual violence during the conflict to justice, as well as providing support to victims of violence.[76]

Discrimination on the basis of gender is banned under Ivoirian employment law.[77] Women employees in the formal sector are also entitled to 14 weeks maternity leave, under article 23.5 of the Labour Code, as well as maternity pay and other cash benefits under certain circumstances.[78] However, the right of married women in Côte d’Ivoire to work outside the home is restricted by Article 67 of the Civil Code, which grants married women the right to follow a profession other than that of her husband’s, unless that profession is deemed to be contrary to the interests of the family;[79] this potentially places restrictions on married women’s capacity for economic independence. 51% of women are considered to be active in the labour force.[80]

[70] Human Rights Watch (2007); Amnesty International (2007) [71] Reporters sans frontiers (2009) [72] Freedom House (2010) p.12 [73] Freedom House (2010); US State Department (2008) [74] Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.) [75] Freedom House (2010) p.10 [76] See Human Rights Watch (2007); US State Department (2008) [77] FAO (n.d) [78] ILO (2009) [79] FAO (n.d.) [80] World Bank (n.d.) Data: Labour force participation


Côte d’Ivoire is a former French colony (gaining independence in 1960), and ongoing close ties with France, foreign investment, and a well-developed cocoa industry meant that it was once one of the wealthiest countries in the region.[1] But the country’s recent history has been shaped by ongoing violent civil conflict between government and rebel forces, precipitated by a military coup that overthrew the elected government in 1999, and peaking in 2002-3.[2] This has resulted in increased poverty and mass displacement.[3] This has had a profound impact on the security and wellbeing of the entire civilian population, but particularly on women and children, given the widespread use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war, and the forced mobilisation of female and male children into rebel forces.[4] While hostilities have now officially ceased, issues that sparked the civil war, such as land reform and grounds for citizenship, remained unresolved, and the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of rebel forces is an ongoing struggle.[5] Elections that were due to take place in 2009 had to be postponed, due to issues around citizenship identification and voter registration.[6]

Overall, women’s position in Ivoirian society remains low, with many subjected to discriminatory practices such as early marriage, FGM, denial of rights to land and employment, and gender-based violence. Together, these significantly limit the capacity of women to play an active role in society, as well as representing violations of their human rights. 

Article 30 of the Ivoirian Constitution – adopted following a referendum in 2000 – grants equal rights to women, and article 3 commits the state to taking appropriate measures to ensure the development of women and realisation of their human rights.[7] The country ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1995, but has not ratified the Optional Protocol on violence against women, and has never reported to the CEDAW Committee.[8]  Côte d’Ivoire has also signed but not ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.[9]

Côte d’Ivoire is classed by the World Bank as a lower middle income country.[10]  

[1] CIA (2010) [2] CIA (2010); Human Rights Watch (2007) [3] Freedom House (2010) p.9 [4] Human Rights Watch (2007) [5] CIA (2010) [6] CIA (2010) [7] FAO (n.d.) [8] (UNTC) (2010); Africa for Women’s Rights Campaign (n.d.); OHCHR (n.d.) [9] African Union (2010) [10] World Bank (n.d.) Data: Côte d’Ivoire


Africa for Women’s Rights Campaign (n.d.) ‘Map of ratifications’.  (accessed 20 October 2010). 

African Union (2010) ‘List of countries which have signed, ratified/acceded to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa’ (as of 27 August 2010). (accessed 15 October 2010). 

Amnesty International (2007) ‘Côte d'Ivoire: Targeting Women: the forgotten victims of the conflict’, London: Amnesty International, (accessed 20 October 2010)

Amnesty International (2009) Amnesty International Report 2009, State of the World’s Human Rights, London: Amnesty International.

Center for Reproductive Rights (2003), Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives – Francophone Africa, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, New York, NY.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (2010) The World Factbook: Côte d’Ivoire, Washington, DC: CIA, online edition, (accessed 20 October 2010). 

Central Intelligence Agency (2012) The World Factbook: Sex Ratio, available at, (accessed 29 February 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, Combined initial to third periodic reports of States parties: Côte d’Ivoire, CEDAW/C/CIV/1-3, Geneva.

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) (n.d.) ‘Gender and Land Rights Database: Burkina Faso’. (accessed 18 October 2010). (Report only available in French).

Freedom House (2010) ‘Countries at the Crossroads 2010. Country Report – Côte d’Ivoire’, (accessed 21 October 2010).

Human Rights Watch (2007), My Heart is Cut: Sexual Violence by Rebels and Pro-Government Forces in Côte d’Ivoire, Vol. 19, No.11, Human Rights Watch, New York, NY.

ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), (n.d.), country profile: Côte d’Ivoire, (accessed 18 October 2010).

International Labour Organization (ILO) (2009) Database of Conditions of Work and Employment Laws, (accessed 21 October 2010).

International Monetary Fund (2009) Côte d’Ivoire: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, available at (accessed 7 March 2012).

Inter-Parliamentary Union (n.d.) Parline Database: CÔTE D' IVOIRE Assemblée nationale (National Assembly), (accessed 21 October 2010).

Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey (2006) available at, (accessed 16 March 2012).

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) (n.d.) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – Sessions, (accessed 20 October 2010).

United Nations Development Programme (2006) World Population Prospects_2006, downloaded from (accessed 1 November 2010).

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2009) Human Development Report 2009 Côte d'Ivoire, online edition, (accessed 21 October 2010).  

United Nations Development Programme (2011) Human Development Report 2011, available at (accessed 29 February 2012).

United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) (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.$FILE/G0311304.pdf (accessed 21 October 2010).

UNICEF (2005b), “Changing a Harmful Social Convention: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting”, Innocenti Digest,

UNICEF (2005c), Early Marriage A Harmful Traditional Practice – A Statistical Exploration, New York: UNICEF. (accessed 21 October 2010).

UN (United Nations) (2004), World Fertility Report 2003, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, New York, NY. (accessed 21 October 2010).

UNData (n.d.) Database: Minimum legal age for marriage without consent’, (accessed 21 October 2010).

United Nations Population Division / DESA (2008) ‘World Marriage Data 2008’. Available to download at (accessed 11 October 2010).

United Nations Treaty Conventions (UNTC) (2010): Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, countries ratified. (accessed 20 October 2010).

US Department of State (2008) ‘2007 Country Reports on Human Rights: Côte d’Ivoire’, (accessed 21 October 2010).

World Bank (n.d.) ‘Data: Côte d’Ivoire’, (accessed 21 October 2010). 

World Bank (n.d) ‘Data: Labor participation rate, female (% of female population ages 15+’, (accessed 25 October 2010).

World Economic Forum (2011) The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, available at, (accessed 2 March 2012).

Discrim. Fam. Code Rank 2012: 
Discrim. Fam. Code Value 2012: 
Legal Age of Marriage: 
Early Marriage: 
Parental Authority: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Rank 2012: 
Rest. Phys. Integrity Value 2012: 
Violence Against Women (laws): 
Female Genital Mutilation: 
Reproductive Integrity: 
Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence: 
Son Bias Rank 2012: 
Son Bias Value 2012: 
Missing Women: 
Fertility Preferences: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Rank 2012: 
Rest. Resources & Ent. Value 2012: 
Access To Land: 
Access To Property Other Than Land: 
Access To Bank Loans And Credit: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Rank 2012: 
Rest. Civil Liberties Value 2012: 
Access To Public Space: 
Political Participation: 
Political Quotas: